Tom Sachs was born in New York in 1966 and grew up in Westport, Connecticut. After graduating and earning his BA from Bennington College in Vermont, he studied architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He returned to the United States and spent two years working at Frank Gehry's furniture store in Los Angeles, where he began using the term knolling*. Tom Sachs currently lives and works in New York. Throughout the 1990s, Sachs developed a technique based on do-it-yourself, a kind of mantra toward "do-it-yourself" that he deployed in both video and sculpture.
Sachs' work, which defies artistic genres, recreates modern icons using everyday materials that show all the labor involved in producing an object. His work bucks the trend of modernization which creates products with cleaner, simpler and more perfect edges. Sachs' pieces are painstakingly handmade, using a variety of materials such as foam board, plywood, resin, steel and ceramics. The imperfections of his sculptures and paintings tell their story, taking them away from the realm of miraculous conception and narrating the laborious manual process involved in their creation. All the steps leading to the final result are always on view. This means that all the joints, seams, screws or any other elements that hold materials together, such as foam board and plywood, are exposed. Nothing is blurred, matted or disguised.
Hello Kitty Nativity Scene (1994) is a traditional representation of the Christian Nativity with modern animated and world-famous characters such as Hello Kitty and three Bart Simpson replacing the religious figures. This work, along with others such as Prada Toilet (1997) and White Ghetto Blaster (2000), represent Sachs' critical yet comical approach to the creation of objects and their consumption.
Nutsy's (2002), a model made only with sheets of foam board and a glue gun, recreates an imaginary 1:25 scale city with a ghetto and a modernist art park that includes sculptural, mechanical and video elements and even a McDonalds. Nutsy's most spectacular piece is the recreation of Le Corbusier's 1952 Unitè d'Habitation housing block. This urban complex is intended to be an amalgam of modernist utopianism and capitalist modernism.
For his 2008 exhibition at the Lever House in New York, Sachs installed his first monumental sculptures. To construct the oversized brand icons of Hello Kitty and My Melody, the artist turned to the traditional medium of bronze, which he then covered with white paint to mimic his favorite material, foam board.
Other projects have included his versions of various Cold War masterpieces, such as the Apollo 11 lunar excursion module and the bridge of the battleship USS Enterprise. And since no engineering project is more complex and ubiquitous than the corporate ecosystem, he has also made versions of them, including a McDonald's that he built out of plywood, glue and various kitchen utensils.
Sachs' work has been shown in numerous exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and is in the collections of major museums around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst in Oslo.
*Knolling: Discipline within photography that captures disassembled objects or sets of objects, belonging to the same family, organized on a flat surface in a millimetric way, creating geometric or even symmetrical shapes with the pieces.