Tom Sachs’s Boom Boxes Will Bring the Party to Austin

Tom Sachs, Guru's Yardstyle (1999). Photo: Tom Sachs Studio.

New York–based artist Tom Sachs will make a splash in Texas this month with a solo show at the Contemporary Austin. The exhibition, titled “Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective 1999–2015,” highlights the sculptor’s imaginative yet functional boom box sculptures, each created for a specific party, road trip, or other event.

“I have been making boomboxes since childhood,” the artist said in a statement. “I hooked my Sony Walkman up to a set of mini speakers and velcroed them to a block of scrap plywood. It was a clusterfuck of wires. In 8th grade woodshop, I made a box for the whole mess out of pine. It had a knob to hang the headphones that was made out of a broomstick.”

The exhibition will obviously focus on his mature career. It wasn’t until much later that Sachs realized that the DIY aesthetics of his handmade boom boxes was very much in keeping with his other sculptural work; he began thinking of the pieces as an extension of his artistic practice.

The boom boxes made their gallery debut at New York’s Mary Boone Gallery in 1999, and the upcoming exhibition features 15 pieces in the series made in the years since.

Today, in our iPod-saturated world, Sachs’s work serves as a portal to a bygone era when boom boxes ruled the streets—yet to the artist’s mind, new technology has only expanded the boom box concept, making it more accessible in our everyday lives. The interactive exhibition will feature curated playlists from such contemporary pop icons as Kanye West.

Though the show attempts to be a comprehensive presentation of Sachs’s boom boxes, the artist admits that “so many have been lost over the years, the components recycled into newer better systems.”

While his earlier works use an array of repurposed materials, Sachs has recently been using more durable materials, crafting boom boxes from bronze and ceramics, including several produced at the ceramics studio at the Contemporary Austin’s Art School at Laguna Gloria.

“I’ve always had sound systems, whether in a car or in my life,” Sachs told the Wall Street Journal. “Being a nerdy, lonely guy, I’ve maybe put too much energy in it.”

“Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective 1999–2015” will be on view January 24–April 19 at the Contemporary Austin. 

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