TOM SACHS is a sculptor, probably best known for his elaborate recreations of various Modern icons, all of them masterpieces of engineering and design of one kind or another. In an early show he made Knoll office furniture out of phone books and duct tape; later, he recreated Le Corbusier's 1952 Unité d'Habitation using only foamcore and a glue gun. Other projects have included his versions of various Cold War masterpieces, like the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module, and the bridge of the battleship USS Enterprise. And because no engineering project is more complex and pervasive than the corporate ecosystem, he's done versions of those, too, including a McDonald's he built using plywood, glue, assorted kitchen appliances. He's also done Hello Kitty and her friends in materials ranging from foamcore to bronze.
A lot has been made of the conceptual underpinnings of these sculptures: how Sachs' sampling capitalist culture, remixing, dubbing and spitting it back out again, so that the results are transformed and transforming. Equally, if not more important, is his total embrace of "showing his work." All the steps that led up to the end result are always on display. On a practical level, this means that all seams, joints, screws or for that matter anything holding stuff together, like foamcore and plywood, are left exposed. Nothing is erased, sanded away, or rendered invisible. On a more philosophical level, this means that nothing Sachs makes is ever finished. Like any good engineering project, everything can always be stripped down, stripped out, redesigned and improved.
The reward for work is more work.
--Mark van de Walle
CAMERAS The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
21 June 2009 -- 16 September 2009
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum will offer a snapshot of Tom Sachs’s work that focuses exclusively on cameras, opening on June 21, 2009.
For many years, a small but significant part of Sachs’s production has dealt with cameras. This exhibition brings together twelve works, from 1972 to the present, that not only explore the camera as both sculptural and functional object, but, perhaps more importantly, chart the course that photography and the globalization of precision manufacturing has taken over the past century.
The exhibition includes the earliest existing work by the artist, a clay replica of a Nikon SLR camera that Sachs made when he was eight years old as a gift to his father. This contrasts with his recent elegy to the now-defunct Polaroid Corporation: a fully functional “instant” camera that has been cobbled together out of (among other things) a Canon digital camera, a tiny HP inkjet printer, and a battery from a Makita cordless drill.
Sachs’s cameras turn the tables on the usual artistic photographic process, where the image made with the camera is the “art” and the camera itself is merely a tool. Playing off the consumer fetishization of photographic equipment, Sachs’s cameras simultaneously deconstruct the technology of photography while at the same time revealing that these ubiquitous machines are compelling subjects in and of themselves.
Aldrich exhibitions director Richard Klein said, “While Tom is widely known for his do–it–yourself version of Pop appropriation, the Cameras exhibition expands upon his interest in the functional, utilitarian, and socio–economic meaning of objects, rather than their superficial character. This concern is what sets him apart from most other artists working with Pop influences.”