Born in Chicago, IL in 1973 where he still currently resides and works, Theaster Gates is an American Installation artist with a diverse back round in Urban Planning, Sculpture, Ceramics and Religious Studies. His body of artistic works manifest themselves in the form of installations, performances and has created, in a sense, a new genre where he combines his artistic and urban planning knowledge in order to break new ground in the way challenges and transforms current thoughts on tradition and perceptions, as well as the actual space he is using.
Gates has shown much interest in community outreach and masterfully infuses this form of social (re)construction with the creative process in order to empower those afflicted by poverty, to bring restoration and a new sense of vitality to places that were previously abandoned and otherwise thought of “un-inhabitable” in the hopes to rebuild the communities and cities perceptions. This advanced form of Social Practice has lead to many acknowledgments, awards and grants for his work.
In the piece titled “Yukata” Gates has created a shoeshine chair, constructed out of wood, metal and upholstery that has been salvaged from old buildings that he renovates.
In this piece Gates is honoring the work that goes into shoe shining as well as the social interaction that takes place during this task. There is also a suggestion of the relationship of power that transpires between the customer and the shiner, and how that is represented in the actual form and architecture of the shoeshine chair. His choice of refurbishing found materials is also correlated to the process of renewal that is the intended by a shoe shine and the notion of giving new life.