18th and 19th Century European fabrics (linens, shroud materials, prison shirt, fishnet, lacework), African fabrics, manual typewritten Ink, handwritten ink, oil paint, acrylic, archival adhesives
72 x 72” (182.88 x 182.88 cm)
Gift of the artist, 2016
The Cooper Gallery Permanent Collection
At an arresting six by six feet, Slaver Logbook presents layers of history comprised of ephemera of the era. European linens, shroud materials, prison shirts, fishnets, and lacework are permanently fused into another entity entirely by a unifying bright white paint. It becomes a canvas on which Sacks uses manual typewritten ink to copy out inventory lists from 18th century slaver ship logbooks. Working carefully around uplifted crests of hardened lace and permanent wrinkles of prison shirts, the text scrawls across the canvas like a confession. Disparate elements of history are brought sharply to us by tactile representations--the daily accessories of people before us are repurposed by Sacks to make the cruel humanity of the slave trade unignorable.
"As Sacks adds each new layer, he feels the presence of the materials he has buried, as though history itself is pressing upward. Sometimes he sets fire to the topmost layer, singeing its surface and revealing what’s below. His completed paintings, which have been acquired by institutions ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Constitutional Court of South Africa, often have seven or eight layers. Their striated depth, like that of an archeological site, suggests the accretions of civilizations."
- Joshua Rothman, on Peter Sacks