For his first solo museum exhibition in France at Palais de Tokyo, Theaster Gates explores America’s dark forgotten past through the interracial exile of Malaga Island.
“Nothing is pure in the end… A sea of wood, An island of debate. Can an exhibition start to shift the negative truths of the history of a place?”
Theaster Gates has exemplified the meaning of social practice in his work, creating new models for building community while bringing awareness to both the historical and present-day struggles of black America. In Amalgam, his first solo museum exhibition in France at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Chicago-based artist shed light on Malaga Island, a 41-acre island located at the mouth of the New Meadows River in Casco Bay, Maine. The island was a fishing hamlet, home to an interracial community born out of the Civil War until 1912, when the Maine governor Frederick Plaisted forced its poorest population, a group of about 45 mixed-race individuals, off the island. Some relocated in Maine, while others were involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions. Ashamed to be associated with the island and the stigma that came with being from there, many of its descendants feared speaking about the incident, which stemmed from racism and classism.