Transforming the unique structure of TANK Shanghai into a roller-skating rink, Gates recreates a 1980s disco atmosphere and invites visitors to navigate the charm of contemporary art through movement, sound, and a new series of neon works inspired by abstract painter Agnes Martin and social theorist W.E.B Du Bois.
When TANK Shanghai was still under construction four years ago, Gates visited the site and drew inspiration for this exhibition, which took three years from its inception to landing. Gates was struck by the circular architecture of TANK No. 3, which reminded him of the roller-skating rinks that he frequented when he was growing up in Chicago.
“Bad Neon” looks at the work of Agnes Martin and W.E.B Du Bois as a strategy for translation practices. Martin‘s ability to codify the world, rendering it as a series of geometric, highly structured line paradigms, were ideal for additional translation. As the artist states, “Through this body of work, I wanted to render Agnes Martin’s secular meditations into a new pop form of electric intensity, while returning to the language of abstraction as a way of grounding other light strategies within the exhibition."
In the “Du Bois Neon” series, which includes Slaves, Ex Slaves and Progress Mill, Gates references the statistical data charts that were compiled by W.E.B Du Bois, an American sociologist, historian and civil rights activist. Du Bois’s visualizations substantiated the presence of the Black experience in America at the turn of the 20th century.