The Contemporary Austin
January 24th - April 19th, 2015
Exhibition includes newly created, working ceramic boomboxes and will be joined by simultaneous exhibition BRAIN to HAND to OBJECT_ featuring ceramic works by JJ PEET.
DECEMBER 2, 2014, Austin, Texas – From January 24 through April 19, The Contemporary Austin presents an immersive and interactive exhibition of assemblages, sculptures, objects, and audio installations by New York- based artist Tom Sachs. Titled Boombox Retrospective 1999-2015, the project demonstrates the artist’s unique, imaginative, and rigorous DIY aesthetic and is comprised largely of works that riff on the idea of the “boombox,” the iconic emblem of 1980s hip-hop culture. A music lover and connoisseur himself, Sachs has recently constructed a series of ceramic boomboxes in a variety of sizes. As functional works of art, these boomboxes – along with other works on view in the exhibition – actually work and feature a collection of playlists curated by pop icons and friends of the artist.
While Sachs’s work has been exhibited worldwide and has garnered substantial critical recognition, this exhibition will be the first presentation of the artist’s work in Texas. At The Contemporary Austin, Sachs has taken advantage of – even taken over – all three of the museum’s sites: the Jones Center, the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, and the Art School. A number of the ceramic boomboxes on view were created by the artist over the past year in the ceramics studio at the Art School, reflecting an exciting, first-ever collaboration between The Contemporary Austin’s exhibitions program and Art School. The exhibition itself is on view at The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, 700 Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, with additional works at the museum’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, 3809 West 35th Street. In addition, Sachs has curated a concurrent exhibition of works by ceramics artist JJ PEET, on view in the Gate House Gallery at Laguna Gloria. More information about both exhibitions can be found at thecontemporaryaustin.org.
“I have been making boomboxes since childhood,” said Tom Sachs. “I hooked my Sony Walkman up to a set of mini speakers and velcroed them to a block of scrap plywood. It was a clusterfuck of wires. In 8th grade woodshop, I made a box for the whole mess out of pine. It had a knob to hang the headphones that was made out of a broomstick.”
A relentlessly inventive sculptor, Tom Sachs and his studio are known for the fabrication of gadgets, hardware, and architectural constructions that have coalesced into playful and provocative objects and sculptural installations. Often incorporating, coopting, and subverting corporate and cultural icons – from Tiffany & Co. and Chanel to Hello Kitty and McDonald’s – Sachs pulls from his surroundings to find both inspiration for his works and the materials with which he constructs them, including plywood, foam core, batteries, duct tape, wires, hot glue, and solder, along with a disparate collection of mechanical detritus and other found objects. Most recently, his work has shifted to encompass more elaborate installations, as when he and his studio completely appropriated the idea of space exploration in Space Program: Mars (2012), a massive installation which transformed the New York Armory into a 55,000 square-foot demonstration of Sachs’s warped vision of a space mission to Mars – complete with his own imaginings of the equipment needed to live and work as part of such an interstellar mission and live performers who played the roles of scientists and explorers maneuvering within this imagined realm. As with his earlier production, the components of Sachs’s worlds are created through a process the artist categorizes as bricolage, or the use of everyday objects and things found in one’s direct surroundings to make art. The foundation of this handmade aesthetic, however, lies in the rigor and fastidiousness with which the artist and his high- functioning studio construct both the objects themselves and the conceptual and intellectual benchmarks that guide Sachs’s life and practice. Sachs lives, manages his studio, and creates art with a playful subversion and punk- rock aesthetic married to a deep seriousness of intention and unwavering philosophy towards art and production.
“I have worked with Tom Sachs on several projects in the past, and I am very excited to introduce his work to Austin,” said Louis Grachos, Director of The Contemporary Austin. “Like Austin, Tom takes his eccentricities seriously. The maverick spirit of self reliance and attention to hand-crafted precision that come through in his work will keenly resonate with our audiences in Central Texas and beyond.”
At the Jones Center, the exhibition centers on Sachs’s representations and recreations of boomboxes. Ceramic boomboxes, many of which were created in The Contemporary Austin’s Art School studios, are joined by additional audio installations incorporating large-scale oratory speakers, cassette decks, and other outmoded listening devices. Many of these will activate the gallery space through a scheduled series of eclectic sound experiences in the form of playlists curated by friends of the artist and local and national pop stars. Other objects on view include one of Sach’s classic Hello Kitty sculptures, rendered in foam core, and an immersive bodega that invites unorthodox interactions between museum visitors, the work of art, and the museum space.
“The 15 sculptures in this exhibition represent a survey of boomboxes and sound systems that I've made since 1999,” Sachs added. “The accompanying catalog attempts to include each one but so many have been lost over the years, the components recycled into newer better systems. Each stereo has always been in support of an activity, event or ritual. From dance party, to road trip, to poche vide (a place to empty your pockets as you enter your home), to laboratory, to bachelor pad, to iPhone dock, sound systems have always been a part of my work and will be as long as I continue to love music.”
While many of the works on view illustrate the artist’s deliberate use of everyday materials and objects, the newly created works on view in Boombox Retrospective demonstrate the artist’s recent explorations with works constructed of more durable media including ceramics and bronze. At the museum’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria large-scale bronze works will be on view, including Miffy Fountain (2008), a working fountain that coopts the beloved children’s book character created by Dutch author Dick Bruna; a new edition of Sachs’s bronze interpretation of a Buddhist Stupa (2012) created specifically for this exhibition; and Duralast (2008), a Dadaist construction from the artist’s series of “battery towers” comprised of a stack of automobile batteries rendered in bronze. Subversiveness, irony, and tongue-in-cheek humor come through to some degree in each of these works and are amplified as the sculptures are situated in contrast to the formal grounds and historic Italianate villa of the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria.