! Alert

Temporary Construction Alert: Please be advised that several areas on Governors Island will be impacted throughout September due to the installation of Charles Gaines’s “Moving Chains” and the Longines Global Champions Tour. Click here for details.

Temporary Construction Alert: Please be advised that several areas on Governors Island will be impacted throughout September due to the installation of Charles Gaines’s “Moving Chains” and the Longines Global Champions Tour. Click here for details.

Announc­ing Charles Gaines’s First Pub­lic Art Project, The Amer­i­can Manifest”


Pre­sent­ed by Cre­ative Time, Gov­er­nors Island Arts, and Times Square Arts

Debut­ing in New York this sum­mer, a series of new art­works con­tends with the over 400-year set­tle­ment of the Unit­ed States and its ongo­ing lega­cies of colo­nial­ism and racial capitalism

Cre­ative Time, Gov­er­nors Island Arts, and Times Square Arts are pleased to present the first pub­lic art exhi­bi­tion by Charles Gaines, The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest. The seri­al­ized pub­lic art instal­la­tion will unfold in three parts, or chap­ters, across three loca­tions over the course of two years — Times Square, Gov­er­nors Island, and Cincin­nati. The project will debut in New York City on July 13, 2022 in Times Square with a new iter­a­tion of the artist’s pio­neer­ing Man­i­festos per­for­mances cou­pled with an instal­la­tion of sculp­tures of the com­plex root sys­tems of the Amer­i­can Sweet­gum tree on view through the sum­mer. Mov­ing Chains, a mon­u­men­tal, kinet­ic sculp­tur­al work sit­ed on Gov­er­nors Island in New York Har­bor opens next in ear­ly Octo­ber 2022 before jour­ney­ing to the banks of the Ohio Riv­er in Cincin­nati in the sum­mer of 2023.

Trac­ing the flow of these north­east­ern water­ways — the his­tor­i­cal­ly charged rivers and ports of New York City and Cincinnati’s Ohio Riv­er, which are not often con­sid­ered in rela­tion to each oth­er — Gaines offers a mul­ti­fac­eted inter­ro­ga­tion of the dual role of the north­ern states in both main­tain­ing and abol­ish­ing slav­ery, and the endur­ing impli­ca­tions of the racial­ized sys­tems, myths, and log­ics that under­pin the nation’s eco­nom­ic and legal foun­da­tions that per­sist today. Through large-scale son­ic and sculp­tur­al works, the project grap­ples with the entan­gled sys­tems of prop­er­ty, cit­i­zen­ship, dis­place­ment, and free­dom that enables and fur­thers racial cap­i­tal­ism, a mech­a­nism for enforc­ing white suprema­cy in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. Gaines’s work for The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest orig­i­nates with the 1857 Dred and Har­ri­et Scott his­toric Supreme Court deci­sion, which decreed that peo­ple of African ances­try were not U.S. cit­i­zens and there­fore could not sue for their right to free­dom, and demands the view­er con­tend with the lega­cies and after­lives of chat­tel slav­ery, Man­i­fest Des­tiny, and colonialism. 

By explor­ing the Dred and Har­ri­et Scott Deci­sion, The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest is intend­ed both crit­i­cal­ly and poet­i­cal­ly to unpack the com­plex­i­ty of Amer­i­ca’s human­ist ideals. It is intend­ed to take us through the slip­pery con­tra­dic­tions that make up the Amer­i­can nar­ra­tive,” said Charles Gaines.

Charles Gaines has been a piv­otal fig­ure in con­cep­tu­al art for the past five decades, known for his body of work engag­ing for­mu­las and sys­tems that inter­ro­gate rela­tion­ships between the objec­tive and the sub­jec­tive realms. The con­cept of iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics has played a cen­tral role with­in Gaines’s oeu­vre, and the rad­i­cal approach he employs address­es issues of race in ways that tran­scend the lim­its of representation.

The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest is a sharp look at the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States and how our laden past man­i­fests in our con­tem­po­rary strug­gles. It is only through an inter­ro­ga­tion and under­stand­ing of these entan­gled his­to­ries that we may face our sys­temic soci­etal ills,” said Cre­ative Time Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Jus­tine Lud­wig.


Sit­ed with­in two key cities whose his­to­ries have shaped the iden­ti­ty of Amer­i­ca, this project invites the pub­lic to con­sid­er New York and Cincinnati’s water­ways’ in both uphold­ing slav­ery and secur­ing lib­er­a­tion, a dual­i­ty that chal­lenges reduc­tive nar­ra­tives of the his­to­ry and lega­cy of slav­ery in Amer­i­ca. Times Square, often called the cross­roads of the world,” exists as a glob­al emblem of cap­i­tal­ism, com­merce, and media, with over 300,000 dai­ly pedes­tri­ans. Five miles away, in the mid­dle of the New York Har­bor, Gov­er­nors Island feels com­par­a­tive­ly serene. The island played an inte­gral role in the city’s eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal his­to­ry; it served as a Lenape fish­ing and hunt­ing camp, an ear­ly colo­nial Dutch set­tle­ment, a home for the British rul­ing Gov­er­nors and, lat­er, a U.S. Mil­i­tary and Coast Guard base from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War until the late 1990s, before becom­ing pub­licly acces­si­ble in the mid-2000s. Halfway across the coun­try, Cincinnati’s John G. and Phyl­lis W. Smale River­front Park con­nects down­town Cincin­nati to the Ohio Riv­er, which his­tor­i­cal­ly served as a demar­ca­tion point and trans­porta­tion route between south­ern slave states and the free states in the north.


Times Square, New York | July 13 – Sep­tem­ber 232022

Broad­way and 46th St, Duffy Square

The project orig­i­nates in Times Square with a per­for­mance-based instal­la­tion, Man­i­festos 4: The Dred and Har­ri­et Scott Deci­sion, and sculp­tur­al instal­la­tion, Roots.

Con­tin­u­ing Gaines’s Man­i­festos series, and specif­i­cal­ly build­ing upon his Man­i­festos 4 com­po­si­tion with the cre­ation of a new vocal arrange­ment, this per­for­mance trans­forms the orig­i­nal text of the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred and Har­ri­et Scott his­toric deci­sion, which decreed that peo­ple of African ances­try were not U.S. cit­i­zens and there­fore could not sue for their right to free­dom. Fea­tur­ing a wood­wind quin­tet, piano and tenor, the 5‑part per­for­mance will be staged on July 13 and July 14 in America’s mod­ern-day com­mer­cial cross­roads, Times Square. 

Roots, on view from July 13 through Sep­tem­ber 23, 2022, con­sists of a series of sev­en Amer­i­can Sweet­gum trees, pre­sent­ed with the root sys­tems upside down and paint­ed to a sur­re­al and dystopic effect. The trees, which were indige­nous to the east­ern Unit­ed States and grew in Times Square, a forest­ed area and beaver pond pri­or to col­o­niza­tion, are known for their impres­sive root sys­tems that require vast open spaces to grow.

We are incred­i­bly hon­ored to launch the first chap­ter of Charles Gaines’s mon­u­men­tal, mul­ti-sit­ed exhi­bi­tion with works that call upon both Indige­nous his­to­ries and present day sym­bol­ism of Times Square to tell the sto­ry of our country’s com­plex lega­cies,” said Times Square Arts Direc­tor Jean Cooney.


Gov­er­nors Island, New York | Octo­ber 2022 – June 2023

Sit­ed at the base of Out­look Hill on Gov­er­nors Island with views of the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, Ellis Island, and Low­er Man­hat­tan, Mov­ing Chains — a 100 foot-long immer­sive, kinet­ic sculp­ture — evokes the hull of a ship rever­ber­at­ing with the low rum­ble of nine chains churn­ing over­head, while vis­i­tors pass through below. Eight of the chains move along at the pace of New York Harbor’s cur­rents, while a cen­tral ninth chain moves notice­ably faster, at the speed of the ships and barges that have trav­eled the city’s water­ways over cen­turies. Com­pli­cat­ing nar­ra­tives of slav­ery that eas­i­ly demar­cate north­ern virtue and south­ern sin, Mov­ing Chains illu­mi­nates the exchange of peo­ple, cap­i­tal, and goods between the north and south, call­ing atten­tion to the nation’s eco­nom­ic, judi­cial, and polit­i­cal frame­works that con­tin­ue to shape the lives and define the free­doms of Amer­i­cans today.

The sec­ond chap­ter in Charles Gaines’s mon­u­men­tal project The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest, Mov­ing Chains is a his­toric work that we are hum­bled to present on Gov­er­nors Island, a site whose land­scape is inter­twined with the sto­ries and strug­gles of New Har­bor and the water­ways that have defined this nation’s past, present, and future,” said Mered­ith John­son, VP of Arts and Cul­ture and Head Cura­tor at the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island. We are hon­ored to present Charles Gaines’s piv­otal work on Gov­er­nors Island, and look for­ward to wel­com­ing vis­i­tors and all New York­ers to engage through a dynam­ic cal­en­dar of pub­lic pro­grams,” added Clare New­man, Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island. Mov­ing Chains rep­re­sents a key invest­ment in Gov­er­nors Island Arts’ mis­sion to cre­ate trans­for­ma­tive art expe­ri­ences for all New York­ers to engage with crit­i­cal issues of our time while in this extra­or­di­nary pub­lic space.”

The project will be accom­pa­nied by a series of pub­lic pro­grams that re-con­sid­er legal and cul­tur­al def­i­n­i­tions of free­dom, bring­ing togeth­er an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of thinkers. 


Cincin­nati, Ohio | Sum­mer 2023

Open­ing in mul­ti­ple loca­tions through­out Cincin­nati in Sum­mer 2023, The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest will trav­el to the banks of the Ohio Riv­er in Cincinnati’s John G. and Phyl­lis W. Smale River­front Park, accom­pa­nied by an addi­tion­al site-spe­cif­ic com­mis­sioned work to deep­en the geo­graph­ic nuances of colo­nial expan­sion. The Ohio Riv­er has his­tor­i­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed both a route to lib­er­a­tion, as the one-time gate­way between slave and free soil” states, as well as a his­toric route used to trans­port enslaved per­sons to the infa­mous port of New Orleans. The project’s jour­ney to this loca­tion from New York makes a final con­nec­tion between the plan­ta­tion log­ic of peo­ple as prop­er­ty, fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized in the case of Dred and Har­ri­et Scott, and the era of Man­i­fest Des­tiny and west­ward expan­sion, which estab­lished the Amer­i­can West land­scape as the right­ful prop­er­ty of the Unit­ed States government. 


Charles Gaines: The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest is made pos­si­ble in New York and Cincin­nati by the vision­ary sup­port of the Ford Foun­da­tion, Lam­bent Foun­da­tion, VIA Art Fund, Foto­Fo­cus, The Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion, Cha­ri­na Endow­ment Fund, Don­ald A. Pels Char­i­ta­ble Trust, the Jacques and Natasha Gel­man Foun­da­tion, Mor­gan Stan­ley, Wave Pool, and mediaThe Foun­da­tion, inc. 

Major sup­port is pro­vid­ed by Hauser & Wirth, Deb­o­rah Beck­mann and Jacob Kotzubei, Bob and Renee Par­sons, San­jeev Rathi, Christo­pher Walk­er, Debi and Steven Wisch, and addi­tion­al anony­mous supporters. 

We are also grate­ful for the sup­port of the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts; pub­lic funds from the New York City Depart­ment of Cul­tur­al Affairs in part­ner­ship with the City Coun­cil; and the New York State Coun­cil on the Arts with the sup­port of Gov­er­nor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

We are thrilled to work with Cre­ative Time, Times Square Arts, and Gov­er­nors Island Arts to bring Charles Gaines’ mon­u­men­tal series to the city,” said Rocío Aran­da-Alvara­do, pro­gram offi­cer for Cre­ativ­i­ty and Free Expres­sion at the Ford Foun­da­tion. This ini­tia­tive sheds an impor­tant light on our nation’s past and offers crit­i­cal per­spec­tive for those work­ing to build a more equi­table future.”

Gov­er­nors Island is alive with dynam­ic arts and cul­tur­al pro­gram­ming, pro­vid­ing unfor­get­table and acces­si­ble expe­ri­ences for New York­ers. This pow­er­ful new work by Charles Gaines will serve to con­nect New York­ers across the bor­oughs to the essen­tial arts and cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences that are a core part of May­or Adams’ eco­nom­ic recov­ery blue­print,” said Deputy May­or for Eco­nom­ic and Work­force Devel­op­ment Maria Tor­res-Springer. I encour­age all New York­ers to expe­ri­ence the wide-rang­ing pow­er of this project through­out the city.”


A piv­otal fig­ure in the field of con­cep­tu­al art, Charles Gaines’s body of work engages for­mu­las and sys­tems that inter­ro­gate rela­tion­ships between the objec­tive and the sub­jec­tive realms. Using a gen­er­a­tive approach to cre­ate series of works in a vari­ety of medi­ums, he has built a bridge between the ear­ly con­cep­tu­al artists of the 1960s and 1970s and sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions of artists push­ing the lim­its of con­cep­tu­al­ism today. Gaines lives and works in Los Ange­les. He recent­ly retired from the CalArts School of Art, where he was on fac­ul­ty for over 30 years and estab­lished a fel­low­ship to pro­vide crit­i­cal schol­ar­ship sup­port for Black stu­dents in the M.F.A. Art pro­gram. He has been the sub­ject of numer­ous exhi­bi­tions in the Unit­ed States and around the world, most notably a mid-career sur­vey at the Pomona Col­lege Muse­um of Art and the Pitzer Col­lege Art Gallery in Clare­mont CA, as well as a muse­um sur­vey of his Grid­work at The Stu­dio Muse­um, Harlem NY, and Ham­mer Muse­um, Los Ange­les CA. His work has also been pre­sent­ed at the 1975 Whit­ney Bien­ni­al and the Venice Bien­nale in 2007 and 2015. An exhi­bi­tion of his work is cur­rent­ly on long term view at Dia:Beacon in New York. In addi­tion to his artis­tic prac­tice, Gaines has pub­lished sev­er­al essays on con­tem­po­rary art, includ­ing The­ater of Refusal: Black Art and Main­stream Crit­i­cism’ (Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, 1993) and The New Cos­mopoli­tanism’ (Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, Fuller­ton, 2008). In 2019, Gaines received the 60th Edward Mac­Dow­ell Medal. He was induct­ed into the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Design’s 2020 class of Nation­al Aca­d­e­mi­cians and will be induct­ed into the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Let­ters in May 2022


Since 1974, Cre­ative Time has com­mis­sioned and pre­sent­ed ambi­tious pub­lic art projects with thou­sands of artists through­out New York City, across the coun­try, around the world — even in out­er space. The organization’s work is guid­ed by three core val­ues: art mat­ters, artists’ voic­es are impor­tant in shap­ing soci­ety, and pub­lic spaces are places for cre­ative and free expres­sion. Cre­ative Time is acclaimed for the inno­v­a­tive and mean­ing­ful projects they have com­mis­sioned, from​Trib­ute in Light,​the twin bea­cons of light that illu­mi­nat­ed low­er Man­hat­tan six months after 911, to bus ads pro­mot­ing HIV aware­ness, to Paul Chan’s pro­duc­tion of Wait­ing for Godot in New Orleans​, and much more. In part­ner­ship with a vari­ety of well-known cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions and com­mu­ni­ty groups, Cre­ative Time has com­mis­sioned art in unique land­mark sites from the Brook­lyn Bridge Anchor­age, Times Square, Rock­e­feller Cen­ter, Gov­er­nors Island, and the High Line, to neglect­ed urban trea­sures like the Low­er East Side’s his­toric Essex Street Mar­ket, Coney Island, and New Orleans’s Low­er 9th Ward. Cre­ative Time is com­mit­ted to pre­sent­ing impor­tant art for our times and engag­ing broad audi­ences that tran­scend geo­graph­ic, racial, and socioe­co­nom­ic barriers.


Times Square Arts, the pub­lic art pro­gram of the Times Square Alliance, col­lab­o­rates with con­tem­po­rary artists and cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions to exper­i­ment and engage with one of the world’s most icon­ic urban places. Through the Square’s elec­tron­ic bill­boards, pub­lic plazas, vacant areas and pop­u­lar venues, and the Alliance’s own online land­scape, Times Square Arts invites lead­ing con­tem­po­rary cre­ators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jef­frey Gib­son, Ryan McGin­ley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the pub­lic see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, inno­va­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty, and the Arts Pro­gram ensures these qual­i­ties remain cen­tral to the dis­tric­t’s unique identity. 


Gov­er­nors Island Arts, the pub­lic arts and cul­tur­al pro­gram pre­sent­ed by the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island cre­ates trans­for­ma­tive encoun­ters with art for all New York­ers, invit­ing artists and researchers to engage with the issues of our time in the con­text of the Island’s lay­ered his­to­ries, envi­ron­ments, and archi­tec­ture. Gov­er­nors Island Arts achieves this mis­sion through tem­po­rary and long-term pub­lic art com­mis­sions, an annu­al Orga­ni­za­tion in Res­i­dence pro­gram in the Island’s his­toric hous­es, and free pub­lic pro­grams and events in part­ner­ship with a wide range of cross-dis­ci­pli­nary NYC cul­tur­al organizations.