Space has long been a fascination for Tom Sachs. From moon landings to spacesuits and all the gadgets in-between, the acclaimed American artist has used the last frontier as a muse of sorts throughout his career spanning paintings, sculptures, installations and of course, loads of highly coveted sneakers with Nike. For many of us, however, the first thought of space travel isn’t so much the mysterious destinations or the gear seen in films, but rather the vessel to actually get there.
Sachs’ latest exhibition, “Spaceships”, uses this simple concept as its jumping off point. Housed at Acquavella Galleries in New York, the solo show examines the accepted understandings, assumptions, epistemology, and consensus of what constitutes a spaceship.
Similar to his three concurrent exhibitions that went on view in Korea, there will certainly be a number of bricolage sculptures, such as Docking (2021) and Generation Ship (2019-2021). But the exhibition takes on a more metaphysical and spiritual approach to defining what the vessel can be. For example, if a spaceship takes one from Earth to space, Sachs challenges this idea by stating that a guillotine can equally be viewed as a vessel for transportation — taking one, rather grotesquely, from life to death. In a similar train of thought, a cathedral or any place of worship can be viewed as metaphysical spaceships that transport our bodies to a higher state of being.
Sachs explained further: “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.”
Amongst the new work on view, Titanic (2022) features a plywood replica of the ill-fated 1912 oceanliner that in many ways was viewed as an early ship bridging the old world and the new. According to a release by the gallery, “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.”
Jumping many decades in the future, Sachs creates another plywood sculpture that showcases his fascination for the iconic Technics 1200 turntable. Revered by industry professionals and casual music lovers alike as the greatest turntable of all time, Technics 1200MK3D (2022) examines how an analog player allows one to access information precisely at the location they drop the needle. Sachs compares this multidimensionality to the internet age and the arbitrary non-sequential access of information it allows.
For an artist that continually pushes the boundaries of his practice, Tom Sachs “Spaceships” is one of his most ambitious to date. The exhibition will go on view from October 7 to November 26 and will be accompanied by a new catalog published by Rizzoli.