Charles Gaines

Born 1944, U.S.A..
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Charles Gaines Biography

Charles Gaines is a Contemporary American artist and key figure in the Conceptual Art movement. Through his drawings, photographs and video installations, Gaines examines the relationship between subjective and objective tenets in philosophy, politics and beauty. Often, Gaines uses systems – predominantly grids – in this work. Gaines is one of the only Black artists of the 1970s Conceptual movement.

Charles Gaines was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1944, and grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Gaines graduated from Jersey City State College in 1966 with a BA, and earned his MFA from School of Art and Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1967 – Gaines was the first Black student to ever be accepted to the program. Following graduation, Gaines began a professorship at California State University Fresno, a position he held until 1990. In 1989, Gaines became a faculty member of the California Institute of the Arts.

Beginning in 1972, with his first New York exhibition at the Cinque Gallery, Gaines’s reputation as an artist began to bloom. In 1975, Gaines was included in the Whitney Biennial in New York. Two years later, in 1977, Gaines was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Additional awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship (2013), a CalArts REDCAT Award (2018) and an Edward MacDowell Medal (2019). To date, Gaines’s work has been included in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Hammer Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem and MCA Chicago.

Gaines currently lives and works in Los Angeles. His work is held in the public collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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