Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tom Sachs @ Sperone Westwater Gallery

The title of this show is "Animals", and I almost skipped seeing it, because of a negative review I read and because I have been predisposed to think of the artist as somewhat overhyped. It has lots of very disparate work, much of it interesting and fabulously put together, and although his terrific bricolage sensibility finally does win me over, the intersections of stuff and ideas here seem crowded and chaotic. Branding, packaging, and luxe/status have been themes in a lot of his past work, and here he is exploring pyrography, a literal branding technique that sometimes has gorgeous results. He seems to be going in a lot of different directions with it at once, though: obsessively labeling the explosion of tool-stuff in an enormous, altarpiece-like chest in a way that catalogues a decade's worth of obscure and classic band references; then elsewhere using it as a mock-classical drawing technique that can resemble engraving or drypoint in large, overwrought parables populated by animals behaving badly - as in flirting lasciviously across species (would they call that bestiality?); finally in a piece called Connecticut, a laboriously burned background leaves a spirograph-like filigree around the exterior of a simple silhouette of the state on a ground formed by several cobbled together roadblock barriers. To me, there were some cool possibilities suggested in this piece, but no real room for expanding on that idea with so many others competing in this show. I could go on and on, and I did take quite a lot of pics. There were some great things, some duds, and just lots of it all, in a warren-like arrangement of small spaces. So, a kind of challenging show for the viewer. Glad I went, though.

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