Ground rules. Free throw

Copied Theaster Gates, Ground rules. Free throw, 2015, wooden flooring, 120 × 180 in. (304.8 × 457.2 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2017.40, © 2015, Theaster Gates

Artwork Details

Ground rules. Free throw
120 × 180 in. (304.8 × 457.2 cm)
© 2015, Theaster Gates
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Mediums Description
wooden flooring
  • Abstract
  • Recreation — sport and play — basketball
Object Number

Artwork Description

To make Ground rules. Free throw, Theaster Gates reconfigured the varnished wood planks of an old high school gym floor. The colored stripes and flecks are the rearranged markings from the athletic court, and the scuff marks testify to how heavily it was used. Gates salvaged the floors from a school that was closed down by the city of Chicago, where the artist grew up and lives today.

Gates says his work begins with a desire to "re-envision place . . . not just as an art project, but as a way of living." Thinking about the community that no longer has a school, he asks what is lost when kids no longer have access to organized sports. How do we learn how to follow the rules when the structures that teach them disappear?