Each Foundations exhibition compliments, contextualizes, and expands upon the featured contemporary exhibition on view. Sometimes Nasher curators organize these installations; other times, the artist featured in the adjacent gallery is invited to select works of art from the Nasher Collection to have on view. For Foundations: Tom Sachs, the artist has selected works that provide insights into his deep ties to Modernism and point up aspects of these historical precursors that still resonate today.
Sachs received his art training at Bennington College in the late 1980s, where he used the same anvil as David Smith and imbibed the mythology of modern art that was part of the school’s heritage. Bennington’s prestigious faculty in the 1960s included artist Anthony Caro and art historian and critic Clement Greenberg, who saw the art of the 20th century as a sequence of advances in ever more distilled forms, an inevitable march toward art’s pinnacle, Abstract Expressionism. This view of Modernism has long been reshaped and expanded, but the emphasis on formalism, clarity of expression, and making stayed with Sachs. Art historian and curator Kirk Varnedoe later characterized the spirit of Modernism as “a fine disregard” for the rules of art and academic traditions. Sachs continues this spirit of overturning accepted notions about art, but, like other artists of his generation, his relationship to Modernism and its legacy is more complex. In a recent essay about the Nasher Collection and what it means for him, Sachs wrote: “The Nasher collection is as precise a summary of my early influences as exists. …But that's the canon, the collection, and my training. And there's something to be said for messing with it, because I want to take it down and be part of it at the same time.”