They say that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. Of course, having a spaceship certainly helps. Artist Tom Sachs meditates on the spaceship’s possibilities in his latest showcase, “Tom Sachs: Spaceships,” on view at Acquavella Galleries February 10 to March 5. Fresh off its tenure at the Palm Beach gallery’s New York City sister, Sachs’ exhibition challenges the narrow definition of a spaceship and explores its new metaphysical and spiritual frontiers as an abstract mode of conveyance from one state to the next (i.e., from life to the afterlife and old to new).
Sachs investigates the accepted understandings, assumptions, epistemology, and consensus of what constitutes a spaceship by tracing its evolving historical and linguistic definitions. Sachs offers formal criteria, defining a spaceship as an object that has the ability to move us from one state to another–most commonly from the dimension of earth to space. Sachs broadens the definition to include vessels that can metaphysically and spiritually transport. From Sachs’ perspective, the guillotine—in addition to its primary function—is a transportation device, as it takes a person from life to death, or the afterlife. Our bodies, in Sachs’ mind, are metaphysical spaceships—multidimensional organic vessels that carry our genetic code.
On view in this exhibition are works like Titanic (2022), a plywood sculpture of the ill-fated 1912 ocean liner, here taking the form of a metaphysical spaceship symbolizing the evolution of major developments in transportation that bridge the old to the new. While language may evolve, form and function within Sachs’ paradigm stay the same. In fact, 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.
The exhibition’s centerpiece, Generation Ship (2019-2022), is a transformed mop bucket into a futuristic vessel that transports humanity and its lingua franca across time and space. Containing its own inner universe, this ship contains a digital video of a cascading waterfall, plastic trees, an Oxford English dictionary, and is powered by battery to accompany explorers on the thousand-year journey to Alpha Centauri.
Sachs’ spaceships showcase the artist’s signature bricolage assembly. This do-it-yourself methodology combines found objects and materials that have evolved in their function and carry past lives, energy, and information that he transforms into vessels that are imbued with spiritual aura.
To complement the exhibition, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach will display two of Sachs’ paintings and one outdoor sculpture, as well as host Sachs for a talk February 17, from 6 to 7 p.m.