A new retrospective of American artist Theaster Gates opened this week at Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills. “Afro-Mingei” claims to be the largest solo show ever of a Black artist in Japan. Ambitious in scale, promiscuous in genre and didactic in tone, the exhibit gives viewers plenty and more to chew on.

Gates is a ceramist by training, and his current practice might best be described as “mayoral.” He rose to prominence for his influential urban revitalisation projects on Chicago’s South Side, for which he transforms dilapidated buildings into art and community spaces. Gates’ work is also archival; he acquires large collections of art, music and literature to preserve Black American culture.

Gates has maintained a personal connection to Japan since 2004, when he studied pottery in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, as part of a residency for international artists. Typically Gates brings art to Chicago for its Black residents, but with “Afro-Mingei” he brings Black Chicago to the world. Drawing a line between Aichi and Chicago may seem odd, but the show gives it an earnest go.