How Tom Sachs Paid Frank Ocean the Ultimate Compliment
He described Ocean's magazine as 'the print version of my 2011 film Color.'
This week, Frank Ocean gave fans everything they had hoped for—and then some. There’s Endless, his hypnotizing, gray-scale visual performance; a 17-track sophomore album titled Blonde; and Boys Don’t Cry, a surprise zine featuring contributions from Kanye West and artist Viviane Sassen. Even Wolfgang Tillmans, whose electronic track Device Control bookends Ocean’s video piece, is found in the mix. But the most notable among his collaborators on the three-pronged release is oddball contemporary artist Tom Sachs.
One of the artist’s signature boomboxes made its way into Ocean’s visual album, in what can be read as a direct nod to Sachs’s recent retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. Sachs was also acknowledged with a “special thanks” following the release of Endless, and is identified as a contributor in Boys Don’t Cry.
The artist divulged details of his relationship with the musician in an interview with Pitchfork’s Marc Hogan. “He called me on the phone and we started a dialog about a lot of things that we’re both interested in,” Sachs said, adding: “We’ve just been talking about different things. So we started on the phone and then we met in person in New York and in L.A. a few times. And we’ve dicked around with a few things in the studio.”
To read Sachs’s interview is to wade through a sea of flattery for the award-winning musical artist, and for himself; though Sachs’s description of Ocean’s magazine does deserve a moment of attention. “This is the print version of my 2011 film Color,” Sachs said. “Frank and I are both very interested in cars and of course in color.”
That Sachs leveled the comparison is evidence of the relationship between hip hop and high art. Ocean’s decision to enlist the creative minds of artists like Sachs and Tillmans is, of course, a power move—and an increasingly common one. For instance, there’s Kanye West, who requested the counsel of painter Vincent Desiderio for his music video Famous, and tasked artist Vanessa Beecroft in helping him launch his new fashion collection; and there’s Jay-Z, who’s worked with artists Marina Abramovic, Damien Hirst, and Takashi Murakami. But it is clear that visual artists also want to be recognized in the pop culture pantheon.
At the moment, Ocean’s editorial venture is in hot demand—so much so that his mom, Katonya Breaux, felt prompted to urge fans to “hang tight” before paying those “ridiculous prices” on eBay.
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