Gees American, 2012
‘Gees American’ is a fire hose painting from Theaster Gates’ Civil Rights Tapestries series. The body of works makes reference to the civil rights movement in America, specifically drawing upon the Alabama peaceful student protest which was broken up by police by spraying firehoses into the crowd. The title of this work makes reference to a specific African American community, and incorporates their developed aesthetic into his own. Known officially since 1949 as the town of Boykin, the community of Gee’s Bend is situated in Wilcox County in the west Alabama Black Belt. Today, approximately 750 people, mostly descendants of enslaved African Americans, live in the community on the banks of the Alabama River. Although beset by the same poverty and economic underdevelopment that characterize other sections of western Alabama, Gee’s Bend has demonstrated a persistent cultural wealth in the vibrant folk art of its quilt makers, whose work has gained national attention and critical acclaim. The community developed a distinctive style, noted for its lively improvisations and geometric simplicity.