Disillusioned by a contemporary culture that he sees as a prosthetic for real culture, Tom Sachs returns to the ‘super-manual’: bricolage and the handmade. He seizes the emblems of popular culture and transforms them to create their witty, thought-provoking alter egos.
“I build things because they are things I want, so I just make them. I use paper, foam-core and non-durable materials,” he explains, “but I do everything in my power to imbue them with value and meaning so that they can live on beyond me.”
Early in his career Sachs made office furniture from phone books and duct tape. Later on, he created a 1:25 scale model of Le Corbusier’s 1952 Unité d’Habitation using only foam-core and a glue gun. This tendency to replicate existing and renowned works using an unexpected selection of techniques and materials is core to his practice. In fact, he is well-known for creating foam-core recreations of Hello Kitty and Miffy, which were then cast in bronze.
Spade (2010), an oversized McDonalds coffee stir stick, is made up of carbon fiber, reflecting the company’s recent revamped image. In an interview with Glenn O’Brien, Sachs explained that black is ‘the symbol of wealth and power.’ Enlarging the minute details of McDonalds’s shift in branding, the stick becomes an industrial piece of machinery, a key component of the multinational mechanism. Sachs will also exhibit 1000 Years (2011), a disposable styrofoam cooler coated with epoxy resin. The work is an example of Sachs’s objects that are simultaneously affected by and transforming of the culture in which they are produced. This cultural remixing produces an alternative space to understand notions of consumerism and mass production. As the writer Mark van de Walle summarises, the results of Sachs’ process “are transformed and transforming.”
Sachs associates the creation of art with constructing tensions, instabilities and conflict – which he finds is losing its footing in an increasingly homogenous world. “Huxley said: you must choose between high art and world peace. When you start to have globalized culture, you lose the individualism of individual cultures and you gain a lack of conflict. There is an association between creativity and conflict,” he asserts.
Tom Sachs (b.1966) is a New York-based artist. Recent exhibitions of his work include Space Program: Mars, Park Avenue Armory, New York (2012), Space Program, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills (2007), Drawings, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris (2011) and Bronze Collection, Lever House, New York (2008). His work can be found in major museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.