In his exuberant manufacture of objects and scenarios, Tom Sachs asks questions that relate to conception, production, consumption, and circulation. Using his prodigious technical skill to expound on the make-do ethics of bricolage, Sachs refashions the world out of simple stuff. But beneath his compulsive tinker’s mentality and ribald wit is a conceptual delicacy that addresses serious and profound issues expressing them in the personal and physical terms of production and process.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Nasher Sculpture Center Archive
The exhibition “Tea Ceremony” centers on an immersive environment representing Tom Sachs’ distinctive reworking of chanoyu, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, including the myriad elements essential to that ritualistic universe . The artist has also produced a complete alternative material culture of Tea, from bowls and ladles, scroll paintings and vases, to a motorized tea whisk, a shot clock, and an electronic brazier. During the course of the exhibition, the Nasher Sculpture Center presented a series of public demonstrations in which special collaborators trained by the artist performed tea ceremony for a few guests. The art of Chanoyu combines elements encompassing fine and applied arts, architecture, landscape design, and etiquette. Through Chanoyu, sharing a bowl of tea becomes an act evoking self-awareness, generosity towards others, and a reverence for nature. The tradition of serving powdered green tea was introduced to Japan from China in the 12th Century. Japanese Buddhist priests who traveled to China to study religious scriptures returned to their homeland having acquired new customs. The priest Eisai of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect, is credited with bringing to Japan the practice of drinking tea in its powdered form. Powdered green tea became an important feature of the Zen monastic tradition and was used as an aid for staying alert during long periods of meditation. From its origins in Zen ceremonies, Chanoyu emerged in its secular form during the 15th and 16th Centuries. A succession of tea masters was instrumental in this development: the Zen priest Murata Shuko, who was responsible for formalizing the tradition in accordance with Zen ideals; Takeno Jo-o, who refined the art; and Sen Rikyu who established the form of Chanoyu as it is known today. Supplementing the exhibition are additional installations covering consummate examples of Sachs’ Tea tools, and a selection of objects from the artist’s career as a cultural hybridizer and devotee of modernist essentialism. The exhibition also features the world premiere of his new film, also titled “Tea Ceremony”. Sachs has also curated a selection of works from the Nasher Collection which are on view in a gallery adjacent to Tea Ceremony as part of the museum’s Foundations series. This attendant exhibition draws parallels between his work and the geometric, formal qualities in works as: Giacometti’s “Spoon Woman” and Julio Gonzalez’s “Main aux piquants“, as well as the trailblazing focus on abjection by artists such as Joseph Beuys and Willem de Kooning, and the campy irreverence of artists like Claus Oldenberg.
Info: Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora Street, Dallas, Duration: 16/9/17-7/1/18, Days & Hours: Tue-Sat 11:00-17:00, www.nashersculpturecenter.org