Conceptual artist Charles Gaines talks about how he has addressed politics and race since the 1970s, through philosophy, abstraction and mathematics. In August 2019, Gaines receives the 60th Annual Edward MacDowell Medal, an award celebrating his high achievements in visual art, musical composition and performance, and his influence as a teacher, writer and curator. An artist whose work is described as formulating the DNA of the conceptual movement, Gaines is a key figure in contemporary art history.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Gaines was the first African American accepted into the School of Art and Design MFA program at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He now lives and works in Los Angeles. He’s been a faculty member at the California Institute of the Arts, for more than three decades.

As Charles Gaines prepares for high profile exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco and London, through 2022, we reflect on what his art says to the world. Resolutely abstract in his practice, Charles Gaines refuses traditional representation—resisting both dominant racial stereotypes, and pressure from within the black community. His gridworks and manifestos deliberately counter deep-seated assumptions about the forms that nature and culture, art and music should take. Gaines shows us how art can embody conceptual, aesthetic, and personal freedom.

About the MacDowell Medal: A Haven for Artists since 1907, the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, was the first artist residency program established in the United States. Each year, the MacDowell Medal recognizes one individual for outstanding contributions to American arts and culture. Merce Cunningham, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Sonny Rollins, and Toni Morrison are among past honorees.

Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Special Audio: Charles Gaines, Manifestos performance, 56th Venice Art Biennale

This episode features conversations recorded with Charles Gaines in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Fresh Art International
Beginning with research, networking, and field recordings, independent curator Cathy Byrd works with a team of creatives to script, direct, produce, publish, and promote a range of perspectives on contemporary art. Fresh Art International models the fresh thinking and positivity essential to building a sustainable professional practice in the field. With her supporters, Byrd has effectively invented a vital new art media platform that offers a globally-informed assessment and a virtual archive of contemporary art and culture.

For more than 20 years, Byrd has engaged in extensive field work, traveling across the U.S., and to Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Turkey. To capture the voices you hear in our Fresh Art International podcast series, she records in-person, via Skype and by mobile phone. Fresh Art International features the voices of Claire Tancons, Tania Bruguera, Theaster Gates, Joan Jonas, Jason Moran, Franklin Sirmans, Marinella Senatore, Cesar Cornejo, Antoni Muntadas, Janet Biggs, Valerie Cassel Oliver, Trenton Doyle Hancock, William Pope.L, and many more. Select sounds and photographs illustrate Fresh News and Fresh VUE features on Miami Art Week, São Paulo Biennial, dOCUMENTA, Venice Art Biennial, Istanbul Biennial, Lyon Biennial, SXSW, ARCO Madrid, Armory Arts Week, Frieze New York, Cartagena Biennial, Havana Biennial, and Prospect New Orleans, among other international exhibitions and events.

Notably, each Fresh Art International podcast episode features an introductory text, photo feature and signature sound. All are archived on multiple platforms, and the full series is downloadable for free on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Android, Google Music Play, and Public Radio Exchange, where we make our podcast available for public radio broadcast.

Our Global Initiative
Since the launch of this platform, our reach has spanned the U.S., including residencies on Miami Beach, in Baltimore, Newcastle, Austin, Brooklyn, Chicago, and New Orleans. In Europe, we’ve set up shop in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Engaged with the diverse character of creative practitioners globally, we’ve recorded conversations with visual, performance and sound artists, curators, architects, and filmmakers, among other culture makers. We’ve toured exhibitions and art fairs, attended performances, experienced public art and explored architecture. We’ve captured field recordings worldwide in cities and remote sites including São Paulo, Brazil; New York City; Lubbock; Roswell, NM; Marfa; Baltimore; Washington, DC; Madrid; Lisbon; Istanbul; Bergen (Norway); The Hague; Frankfurt, Brooklyn; Providence, Rhode Island; New Orleans; Chicago; Atlanta; Austin, Texas; and Key West, Florida.