Sperone Westwater is pleased to present Peter Sacks: Above Our Lands, the artist’s second exhibition at the gallery. New paintings, as well as works on wood and on paper, continue and extend the artist’s distinctive practice of merging paint, collage and diverse fabrics. Dramatic shifts of scale—from our miniaturized human dimension to forces gathering above us—evoke recent historical forces sweeping above our lives, be they war, disease, climate change, system collapse or incipient totalitarianism.
In the main gallery, a series of three 8x6 foot canvases, Without Title 1-3, suggest fragments of ruined walls, broken archways and eroded frescoes. Rough burlap, corrugated cardboard and linen are juxtaposed with delicate lace and diverse brushstrokes, conjuring damaged yet persistent figures stirring within the layered backgrounds. Tiny figures move along the bottom edge of each canvas—a predella beneath elements looming above—making one feel how large the forces are which are “above our lands.” Sacks continues this exploration on paper in a new series entitled Above Our Lands, in which bright fabrics are transformed into kinetic creatures, currents or forces which swirl over lands like dogs of war or angelic messengers.
Featured also is a series of 4x4 foot canvases, Without Name, in which shadowy figures evoke spectral human forms—survivors, refugees, messengers or ghosts. Each apparition is intricately textured yet hovers on the threshold of visibility—the figures are ambiguous and contradictory, neither disappearing nor returning, both witnessing and threatening.
In the East gallery, a kaleidoscopic assemblage of wooden blocks, Crossing, sweeps across ninety interconnected segments depicting a flotilla of sailing ships composed of twisting patterns of tattered textiles and fragments of text. Disintegrative and tempestuous, Crossing sets its craft against a storm of intertwining forces, a turbulent maelstrom of migration and loss, which perhaps no craft can survive.
The second floor features a selection from Sacks’s Resistance series, portraits of individuals who have resisted political, racial or cultural oppression over the past two centuries. Each subject’s face is embedded in a tactile composition of fabric, paint, personal items and texts, conveying a sense of their life, historical background, struggles, acts of resistance and, in some cases, their death. These works are selected from the series of approximately 100 portraits on view in the concurrent solo show Peter Sacks: Resistance at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, from 25 August through 30 December 2022. The entire series ranges from Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks and Rosa Luxemburg to Stephen Biko, Harriet Tubman, Emma Goldman, Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Peter Sacks: Resistance is curated by Dr. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator. Both exhibitions are accompanied by an audio collage of the subjects’ words, selected and read by numerous contemporary literary, political, social and cultural figures. These are available to stream in four parts below. An audio tour for the works in the gallery exhibition can be found linked here.