Described by Emma Allen for the New Yorker as a “mix of mad scientist, obsessive tinkerer, cult guru, taskmaster general, starry-eyed theoretician, and workout champion,” Tom Sachs is one of today’s most inspiring and influential sculptors.
Best known for elaborate and transformative re-creations of various Modern icons, re-creations that are masterpieces of engineering and design, Sachs’ work confronts capitalist culture through bricolage. Critiquing the speed and regularity with which a materialistic society replaces commodities, Sachs uses both a profusion of commercial icons in his work and builds his own functioning versions of consumer goods using re-purposed items. His pieces are emphatically process-oriented as a result — an expression of the artist’s DIY spirit, divulging even the flaws of his complex and labor-intensive projects. This means that all seams, joints, screws, foamcore, and plywood are left exposed. Nothing is erased, sanded away, or rendered invisible. As Arthur Lubow wrote for the New York Times, “[Sachs] presides over a kingdom in which junk becomes treasure without ever ceasing to be junk.”
Still, beneath the pop-provocateur veneer, Sachs has always maintained a childlike awe of the golden age of industrial might and technology. And on a more philosophical level, the transparency of Sachs’ work means that nothing he makes is ever finished. Like any good engineering project, everything can always be stripped down, stripped out, redesigned and improved. The reward for work is more work. As Sachs himself explains, “I’m obsessed with innovation. […] That’s my impulsiveness.”
A self-described “middle-class kid from Connecticut,” Sachs received his BA from Bennington College in Vermont, before working with Frank Gehry and Tom Dixon. He gained fame creating cheeky depictions of famous brands, typically rendered in a DIY-style bricolage sculpture: Chanel guillotines, McDonald’s Value Meals emblazoned with Hermès logos and enormous Hello Kitty sculptures.
Sachs’ latest work is currently being exhibiting at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. His work has been collected by The Getty, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, as well as Berkeley’s own BAM/PFA, among others.
Co-sponsored by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Art Practice Department.
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Berkeley’s Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium is an internationally recognized forum for presenting new ideas that challenge conventional wisdom about art, technology, and culture. This series, free of charge and open to the public, presents artists, writers, curators, and scholars who consider contemporary issues at the intersection of aesthetic expression, emerging technologies, and cultural history, from a critical perspective.