Large-scale, Theaster Gates art piece installed at 167 Green.

18 August 2022

Teams recently installed a large-scale piece by Theaster Gates at 167 Green. Hanging in the building’s lobby, the impactful piece is publicly viewable from the Mews, a public promenade at the base of the building which connects Green and Halsted Streets.

The piece titled Mama’s Milk is a neon sculpture which consists of a reclaimed Rothschild Liquor sign and modifications from Gates. Rothschilds Liquors was a chain of liquor stores which were peppered across Chicago’s South and West sides, where they became staples in these neighborhoods.

Adding additional neon script reading, “Mama’s Milk”, Gates alludes to the pervasiveness of liquor stores in impoverished, minority communities. In some cases, Rothschilds may have been the only ‘market’ in the community where they existed and became the defacto lifeblood, or ‘milk’ for these primarily black and brown communities. As described by Gates himself, “people in poorer communities are being comforted either by the Lord or a 40 on Sundays.” My equating alcohol with nourishment, the artist highlights the mutual dependency of the widespread chain and economically depressed communities.

By displaying this piece, along with the others in a large collection of public art at 167 Green, teams aim to elevate Chicago artist from the past and present with an emphasis on inclusivity. Artistic from a range of cultures, races, genders, and backgrounds come together to create a vibrant unique collection. Inside, visitors are greeted by vintage lithographs of Alexander Calder’s Braniff airlines posters from the 1970s and works by Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly from the French art magazine “Derrière le Miroir.” In addition to the piece by Gates, the exterior facade, features a mural by artist Cody Hudson which blends geometric forms with organic shapes to create a visual language that embraces juxtaposition and multiplicities.

The public piece by Gates will be on display until next summer when it will be replaced by a new feature which aligns with the goal of the larger collection.

The collection at 167 Green was expertly curated by Anna Cerniglia of local firm Johalla Projects.

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