TOM SACHS: Spaceships
February 10 - March 5, 2023
FEBRUARY 10, PALM BEACH, FL - Acquavella Galleries is pleased to present its fourth exhibition with New York-based artist Tom Sachs. Spaceships includes new and recent paintings and sculptures which expand on the exhibition presented in our New York galleries in October 2022.
Building upon the sculptural exploration of what constitutes a spaceship, Sachs continues to challenge the accepted understandings of the vessels that carry us between dimensions. For Sachs, a spaceship can transport us physically, metaphysically, and spiritually. Any object that allows for this transformation is a spaceship. New paintings see the artist revisit his drawings and studies of everyday objects, an exercise in both time travel and rebirth.
Ahead of the New York exhibition, the artist offered the formal criteria defining a spaceship as an object that has the ability to move us from one state to another. In its most commonly understood form, a spaceship takes us from the dimension of Earth to space. These works challenge the understandings of basic transportation and space travel, as well as the multitude of dimensions that a spaceship can carry us through.
His archival drawings, dating back to 1998, are studies of life in space and the vessels that allow for transdimensional travel. In Sachs’ Space Program: Mars at the Park Avenue Armory in 2012, astronauts explored the desert planet, finding ways to bring life and grow poppies in this hostile environment. High Yield Opium Poppy (2023) brings the 2011 drawing into a new realm of painting, just as the poppies brought life to Mars.
The Asshole (2023) presents the components of another Space Program sculpture that demonstrates another method of multidimensional transport: digestion. The Space Program film documented every part of an astronaut’s journey, including waste removal - the first to be caught on camera. Even this human element of life explores transformation across realms, from food to shit.
While the majority of the archival drawing paintings reflect their age on crumpled and stained grid paper, yellowed notebook pages, and restaurant guest checks, Skycrane (2022) is placed on a flat blue background, bringing a new world of color into the gallery, highlighting the ways that simply elevating from the ground to the sky is visiting new and unknown universes.
Titanic (2022), the ill-fated 1912 ocean liner, builds on a similar plywood sculpture shown in the New York gallery in the fall. The ship is a classic and early example of a spaceship, as a symbol of the evolution of major developments in transportation across worlds—bridging the old to the new. While language may evolve, form and function within Sachs' paradigm stays the same. In fact, large ocean liners like the Titanic were guided using navigational technologies similar to the reaction control systems (RCS) used in space travel today to guide and influence their course.
Sachs' spaceships showcase the artist’s signature bricolage assembly and years of list-making and note-keeping practice. This methodology combines notes, ideas, sketches, found objects and materials that have evolved in their function and carry past lives, energy, and information that he transforms into vessels that are imbued with spiritual aura. Even the paintings include layers that allude to the type of document the drawing was made on. Says the artist, “There’s information from the materials’ past life - I’m not going to always be there to stand and tell it, but if I’m successful, the viewer will feel that story - whether that's a mop bucket or a Chanel suit”
Underlying the formal investigations of the myriad spaceships at our disposal is both a contagious DIY enthusiasm and a sense of urgency. In his essay for the accompanying catalogue, art historian Thomas Crow states, "Sachs the bricoleur enacts the practitioner of limited technical means whose impatient enthusiasm impels him to rival the NASA engineers: Is the space program still far from being able to extract minerals from the surface of Mars? We can do it now! The projected voyage to Europa, the moon of Jupiter possessing water and atmosphere? Let's go now!"
Tom Sachs explains, “There are three reasons people do anything— spirituality, sensuality, and stuff. Spirituality is asking the big questions: Are we alone? Where do we come from? Sensuality is going where no man has gone before: exploring space, the g-force of excitement, climbing the highest mountain, the smell of the tatami, the touch of the kimono… Stuff is the hardware: a spaceship, a cathedral, a tea bowl. That’s what we make. Our priority is sculpture, but it doesn’t mean shit without the ritual and without the spirituality and the reasons behind it. You’ve gotta have all three.”