Gregory Coates: Reconstructed

2 - 30 April 2021
Gregory Coates, Afro Series, Berlin Blue, 2019

Mark Borghi in Sag Harbor is pleased to present Gregory Coates: Reconstructed, on view April 2 - April 30, 2021.


Gregory Coates explores the possibility and nature of unorthodox material by juxtaposing various materials such as steel plates, cardboard, rubber hoses, duct tape, twine, feathers and paint into amalgams of texture and color. Much of his work is about opposites — refined/raw, slow/fast, sophisticated/street, traditional/non-traditional — all of which are indicative of his Washington, D.C. upbringing, where he embraced the polarity of the “Go-Go” and “D.C. Hardcore” music scenes. Coates defines himself as a painter, mainly because of his need to use color as a tool of communication, but he simultaneously challenges the notion of using color and paint as subject matter used to create an “implied space.” Instead, Coates is more interested in the “actual space,” making use of texture, shape and light as the subject and using color mostly as a means to seduce the viewer into investigating the materials.


In Reconstructed, Coates challenges the materiality of feathers by adhering them onto discs of Luan plywood using a calculated layering process. A combination of oil and acrylic paint serve as tools to both bind the feathers to the wood and call attention to their new texture, which has transformed from weightless and pliable into a rigid, impenetrable surface. The feathers, once in constant motion, now appear frozen in time — almost a contradiction of what they once were. Coates completes the work with heavily pigmented paint which prompts the viewer to discover the materials and consider how they have been radicalized.


Coates’ discovery of materials is usually not intentional. He was drawn to feathers after being gifted a pillow during the death of his father-in-law. The pillow, once part of an art installation, was torn and spilling feathers. Unwilling to dispose of the gift, he instead took the pillow into his studio where he repurposed the feathers by adhering them onto different surfaces. This repetitive process helped Coates grieve the loss of his father-in-law, and is a touching example of how instead of seeking out different materials, he embraces the ones that find him.


Coates studied at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. He has held numerous residencies including at Gasworks in London, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Triangle Workshops in Cape Town, South Africa, Pine Plains, New York, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New Orleans. His work is included in museum collections such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, The Virginia Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Paul Pozzoza Museum in Düsseldorf, Germany, the City of Obama in Japan, and many corporate and private collections. He is a Joan Mitchell Foundation and New York Foundation Fellow and was awarded the Pollock-Krasner- and Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation (Emergency) Grant. Coates currently lives and works in Allentown, Pennsylvania.