Tom Sachs: Furniture in Chicago
For the first time in more than twenty years, New York-based artist Tom Sachs displays the extension of his sculptural practice through ‘Tom Sachs: Furniture’ by Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation and Anthony Gallery at Stony Islands Arts Bank, Chicago from July 7th to September 4th, 2022. Furniture pieces from Sachs’ repertoire grace the exhibition, a testament to the mixed-media artist’s recreations of modern iconographies through everyday materials such as plywood. Along with his artworks, the public-art show turns into a platform for Sach to demonstrate the range of his creative artistry, and his furniture signature is underlined through the variety of holes and use of lines and blocks with clean edges.
The time and dedication he has invested into producing his works for the exhibition go hand in hand with his ethos of modernizing the maximalist trend by steering towards products with cleaner, simpler, and more well-sculpted edges. All handmade, resin, steel, and ceramic play a role in Sachs’ sculptures with plywood taking the limelight as the main character. Drawn from the organic process, flaws and scars may surface in the furniture at a closer look, but those just amplify the narrative of how these objects came into being, stripping them off a glossed-over perception that they were produced with perfection in mind or through the precise digitization of machinery. For Sachs, his studio team functions as a teaching hospital or cult that worships plywood and an ethos of transparency, shaping their collective values that put forward their approach to making furniture.
images courtesy of Rebuild Foundation, Anthony Gallery, and Tom Sachs: Furniture | Model Eighty Three, Tom Sachs, 2022
Sculptural practice through furniture
The pieces in the exhibition can be ordered upon request. Memories of early-on crush may be invoked as viewers catch a glimpse of Love Seat, a bench assembled in latex-painted maple plywood. Perfect-shaped holes pierce through the frame of the seat and looking at the back of the sculpture, the uniform design falls in sync while rectangular plywood forms continuity throughout the bench. The Love Seat also incorporates Spinneybeck leather cushions and armrests, and Sachs writes that there is a hand-engraved, sequentially numbered-edition copper plate on each piece.
Sitting by a pier at sunset or fishing by a lake in a still afternoon can be accompanied by Sachs’ Crate Chair, an assembled ConEd barrier chair with stainless steel hardware. Signs of charcoal lines, chaffed edges, and darkened spots spotlight the feature of the chair that comes with a coffee table made with the same materials. Speaking of coffee tables, Sachs also created one that exudes simplicity through its plain white color. The round surface is appended over butterfly-shaped legs with his signature holes. When viewed from afar, the circular openings resemble a worried face, thanks to the arched bottom part of the piece.
ConEd Altec Lamp, Tom Sachs, 2022
Stories in the making
Other works of art and sculptures by Sachs – who was also the winner of designboom’s THE DESIGN PRIZE 2021 in the artistic realm (watch our exclusive art interview with the artist here) – that are on display in the exhibition include cassette tapes, a packaging of Reese’s chocolate buttercups designed from his perspective, English porcelain sets engraved with red NASA inlay, lamps shaped like a kitchen hood, and boomboxes made of plywood that bring the viewers back to the street culture of the past.
Through the exhibition with Rebuild Foundation and Anthony Gallery, Tom Sachs’ transparency using the idea of showing marks tells the story of the making. The more he narrates the story of his works, the more viewers can invest in their personal belongings and build greater connections with the items and rituals in their daily lives. As the show’s text states, Sachs challenges viewers to reflect on the objects they buy; the furniture they have; the sound systems and the music they play; and reminds them that everything is art. It is about the rituals that activate it.
Crate Chair No. 13, Tom Sachs, 2018
ileen Gray Lamp, Tom Sachs, 2002
Coffee Table, Tom Sachs, 2022