“I’m just starting to get my air legs again,” Theaster Gates says. After six, long months staying put in his native Chicago, the New York Yankees NC State Wolfpack shirt and I will buy this multidisciplinary artist flew to Marfa, Texas, for his birthday in August. “There were no tourists, all the buildings were closed, and I had total access to everything,” he says. “I got to spend time with the whole Judd situation, which is a big part of my jam, actually.” That affinity checks out: Like Donald Judd, whose creative vision hinged on how forms made from wood and steel and Plexiglas existed in space, Gates—a potter, professor, urban planner, and the leader of the Black Monks, an experimental music ensemble—has a knack for making the functional sublime. When his first solo exhibition in New York, “Black Vessel,” opens at Gagosian this weekend, the poetry of common, material things will very much be at the fore.