Gregory Coates

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Gregory Coates
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Born (1961-03-05) March 5, 1961 (age 60)
Washington D.C.
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma mater
  • Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C.
  • Kunst Akademie Duesseldorf
  • Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
Known forKnown for working in the realm of social abstraction
Spouse(s)Kiki Nienaber

Gregory Coates (b. March 5, 1961) is an African-American artist known for working in the realm of social abstraction. Though Coates considers himself a painter, he often works in three-dimensional formats including wall sculpture, sculpture in the round, installation art and public sculpture, and less frequently in video and performance.

Early life

A native of Washington D.C., Gregory Coates was born in 1961[1] , and grew up in the inner city's Federal Park district near the National Arboretum.[2] One of eight children, Coates had a working-class upbringing and his mother worked to support him, his brother and six sisters. [3]


Gregory Coates attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. from 1980 to 1984 where he earned a bachelors degree[4], and the Kunst Akademie Duesseldorf in Germany from 1985 to 1987[5]. He later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (1990).[6]


Between his undergraduate and graduate studies Gregory Coates traveled to Germany. This period in the late 1980's was marked by profound cultural, social, political and economic changes, most notably, the end of the Cold War, which was highlighted by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.[7] Living in Germany while studying at the Kunst Akademie, Coates was tapped into the events leading up the fall of the Iron Curtain and the impact of those changes, which resonated around the world, including the Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood where Coates made his home upon returning from Europe.[8] In the late 1980's Coates was still working primarily as a figurative painter when he met the artist Al Loving, through his (now) wife Kiki Nienaber, who was Loving's studio manager. Loving encouraged Coates to extend his practice beyond figurative painting into the realm of assemblage. This breakthrough led Coates to embrace the physical aspect of painting, using his hands not to apply paint to a flat surface, but to construct in three dimensions - requiring physical acts of stacking, piling, accumulating and assembling a variety of materials. Notes Coates "this was a significant departure into my maturity as an artist."[9] Another seminal influence took place in 1996 when Coates was at an artist residency in Capetown, South Africa, shortly after the end of Apartheid. There, he encountered extreme poverty, and this resulted his another shift in his work - the use of repurposed materials - which he saw a a moral imperative in response the gross wastefulness of industrialized societies and the economic inequities he witnessed while living in Cape Town.[10] As a result, Coates began using almost exclusively, recycled materials to create his work. These unorthodox materials include feathers, bike tubes, cardboard, crumpled papers, dirt, vinyl records and the heads of push brooms - signature materials that define his present work and art practice. He uses these unorthodox materials, coupled with provocative titles, to address the problematics of Cold-War politics, poverty, racism, domestic labor and Black aesthetics[11] to sway viewers to reflect upon the difficult subjects he addresses, which though his use of playful materials invite viewers gently into these conversations.

In the media



  1. "N'Namdi Contemporary website". N'Namdi Contemporary. June 22, 2020.
  2. Etty, Yaniv (April 11, 2018). "Gregory Coates, Claiming Feathers". Art Spiel. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  3. "Gregory Coates: Actual and Implied". June 22, 2020.
  4. "SVA Faculty Pages". Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  5. "N'Namdi Contemporary, Gregory Coates Resume" (PDF). Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  6. "SVA Faculty Pages". Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  7. "Artland - Gregory Coates biography". Art Land. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  8. "Art Land - Gregory Coates biography". Art Land. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  9. Edwards, Jeff. "Consider This. An Interview with Gregory Coates". Art Pulse Magazine. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  10. "ABSTRACT TRUTHS: A STUDIO VISIT WITH CONTEMPORARY ARTIST GREGORY COATES". Sugar Cane Magazine. August 6, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  11. Hutchinson, Cori (December 2019). "Actual and Implied: New Work by Gregory Coates Gently Bristles". White Hot Magazine. Retrieved June 22, 2020.

External links

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