Rising Star Artist Nick Doyle and Tom Sachs Discuss the Power of Creativity
Once mentor and protégé, the artists are colleagues and friends with a shared love of materials
As a young artist who had just moved to New York in 2007, Nick Doyle landed a job on the team of assistants in the studio of Tom Sachs, known for his cheeky re-creations of iconic cultural objects cobbled together from commonplace and salvaged materials. After seven years of serving on that crew, Doyle transitioned from star protégé to friend and colleague. His first solo show at Perrotin in New York runs through December 23. Titled “Yes Daddy,” it explores the tropes and pitfalls of masculinity through large-scale denim sculptures and miniature mechanical toys of men doing terrible things to themselves. Here, Doyle and Sachs, who recently had his own show at Acquavella in New York, discuss the evolution of their creative give-and-take.
Their First Meeting
Nick Doyle: Initially, I didn’t even meet Tom in my interview to work for him. I walked in and I did a woodburning test, which is similar to drawing with fire instead of a pen, and then met Tom 45 minutes later. He was in the process of building his Lunar Excursion Module. This was very different from any reality I’d ever been in.
Tom Sachs: There are two kinds of people in the studio: those that can do things with great precision, like woodburning, drawing, and clean lines, and those who are able to do things fast and dirty. I’m a fast and dirty person; I’m not so good at detail. In a studio like this, we need both, and I think Nick was the only person that could do both.
Approach to Materials
Doyle: I’d studied photography and painting in school. The first time I really began to appreciate the physicality of objects was at Tom’s studio. That has become very foundational in how I consider the significance of materials like denim. As a young person with maybe grand visions for what I could do, understanding that you can just grab things out of the garbage and put together a sculpture was important, especially in a place that’s financially prohibitive like New York.
Sachs: In both our work, there’s a transparency with the materials and the techniques and showing the evidence of the sculpture’s construction, which is not a trendy thing.
“The first time I really began to appreciate the physicality of objects was at Tom’s studio”Nick Doyle
Doyle: We definitely share a sense of humor. Tom will poke the dragon, but I think he’s very intelligent about it. He’s poking it from a perspective of seeing the whole picture and not necessarily a very one-sided angle.
Sachs: We each celebrate not just the ideas in the work but the sensuality of making it—this actual love of cutting and assembling, adding and reducing materials in different ways. I always want geeky shoptalk, but also linked with a more complex idea like the duality of man, the rational versus irrational, Apollonian versus Dionysian.
Doyle: My show “Yes Daddy” is about contemporary masculinity and the type of culture that we exist in. The patriarchy is prescribing this terrible way to behave, and I see so many men just going along with it. Many titles in the show will be like a demand from a father figure, to which the answer could be “Yes, Daddy.” A denim work of a shattered vase of flowers is titled Never Let Them Know That You Care. A suitcase packed with a gasoline tank, handcuffs, rope, duct tape, vodka, flashlight, camera, and menswear is called Be Prepared, which is taken from the Boy Scouts’ saying.
Sachs: If you’re going to be a critic, you’ve got to be an active participant, too. We’re part of the patriarchy. The idea of “Yes Daddy” means a lot of different things. That’s why it’s art and not propaganda. The confusing stuff is what helps us come to terms with the irreconcilable insanity of everyday life.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2022 Winter Issue under the headline “Building Blocks.” Subscribe to the magazine.