Currently at Sperone Westwater’s Bowery exhibition space, artist Tom Sachs is presents Objects of Devotion, a body of new pieces that mark both a return and elaboration of the artist’s nuanced sculptural process, and his relentlessly interrogative focus on the act of making art. The show, on view through October 28th, spans two floors of the gallery, including a series of sculptures re-creating the artist’s various workspaces and materials, offering them both a pseudo-scientific dedication to reproduction, and a pseudo-spiritual fascination with their prominence in his life.
Sachs has long worked as a bricoleur of sorts, fastening his works from cast-off detritus, reclaimed materials and ample amounts of wood, nails and tape. Walking the line between meticulous craft and a home-brew hobbyist’s final presentation, his works are a constant reinterpretation of the act of art making, questioning if the act of work, presentation, or material composition presses most heavily on the object’s title as “art” proper.
Here, however, Sachs turns this same attention towards the raw conditions and potentials for art towards his own working process. Work benches and cork boards from his studio are presented in the same accumulative fashion, utilizing sourced materials and lines that recall New York traffic signals, Erector Set improvisations, and a certain whimsical approach to reality. Sachs’s own studio seems to slowly emerge from the flurry of objects on view, moments from his day-to-day work schedule becoming more nuanced and complex upon repeated views. In one piece, the artist presents a tool cabinet, one that grows increasingly otherworldly upon consideration not only of the sheer number of tools included, but also in the occasionally surreal forms and functions these manufactured objects conjure.
What’s perhaps most striking about Sachs’s work here is the emergence of labor as the final object of focus, rather than its place as a theme running throughout much of his work. With past bodies of work, including his NASA pieces and Tea Ceremony sculptures, Sachs’s slavish devotion to work, to the act of assembling and constructing his reproductions of various objects and ceremonial pieces was paramount. The artist’s hand never left the equation. Yet with these new pieces, Sachs turns his focus to production itself, to the detritus and essential tools for continued production. It’s particularly telling for the artist’s aesthetic philosophies given the show’s title, and underscores the artist’s evolving interest in not only the human aspects of making, but particularly the unique form of material fetishism that factors so often into the modern artist’s studio practice. Turning his labor of love into the center of his work here, Sachs offers a new fold into the interpretation and understanding of his work, a moment of self-reflection that grows all the more powerful through the density of its arrangements.
The show closes October 28th.
— D. Creahan
Tom Sachs at Sperone Westwater [Exhibition Site]