To Speculate Darkly

If you caught this year’s Walter Harding lecture by Prof. Pier Gabrielle Foreman, “To Speculate Darkly: Slavery, Black Visual Culture, and the Promises and Problems of Print,” you may be interested in visiting the website of the art exhibit from which the lecture’s title is drawn.

To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave the Potter was an exhibit hosted by The Milwaukee Art Museum in 2010.

Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates explains the origins and aims of the exhibit in this video on his website. As Gates explains, the exhibit

explores the history and legacy of Dave Drake (also known as Dave the Potter). A slave in antebellum South Carolina, Drake produced stoneware pottery and famously adorned his pots with poetic couplets. Though historians and art historians have explored Drake’s career in detail, Gates is the first artist to reinterpret his work and to make it pertinent to a broader set of concerns about the place of labor and craft in present-day America. The exhibition’s provocative installation, titled To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave the Potter, features a gospel choir that engages the enigmatic, emotional works of poetry found on Drake’s pots. Gates created the captivating sound piece with musicians from both Milwaukee and Chicago. Gates further collaborated with local tradespeople to develop original ceramic works for the show. Thus, the project, as intended, has brought together two very different groups of people in partnership, and promises to create lasting relationships across the city.

Published by

Paul Schacht

Paul Schacht is Professor of English at SUNY Geneseo

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