Fred Sandback: Biography

Fred Sandback’s (1943-2003) sculptures outline planes and volumes in space. Though he employed metal and elastic cord early in his career, he dispensed with mass and weight by using acrylic yarn to create works that address their physical surroundings, the “pedestrian space,” as Sandback called it, of everyday life. By stretching lengths of yarn horizontally, vertically, or diagonally at different scales and in varied configurations, the artist developed a singular body of work that elaborated on the phenomenological experience of space and volume with unwavering consistency and ingenuity.

Sandback’s work has been exhibited internationally since the late 1960s. His first solo shows were held at Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf, and Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich, both in 1968, while the artist was still a graduate student pursuing his MFA at the Yale School of Art and Architecture. Other early exhibitions of Sandback’s work were presented at Dwan Gallery, New York (1969); Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany (1969); Kunsthalle Bern (1973); Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany (1974); Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany (1975); Kunsthaus Zürich (1985); Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (1987); and Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (1987).

Sandback became one of a small group of artists sponsored by Dia Art Foundation, which maintained an institution dedicated to his work—the Fred Sandback Museum—from 1981 until 1996. Not far from his studio in Rindge, New Hampshire, the museum was housed in a former bank building in Winchendon, Massachusetts.

His work was the subject of an extensive survey organized in 2005 by the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz, which traveled to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, and the Neue Galerie am Joanneum, Graz, in 2006. In 2011, his work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. That same year, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, dedicated its entire building to a solo exhibition of his work. In 2014, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, hosted the first major retrospective of Sandback’s drawings curated by Dieter Schwarz. This exhibition subsequently traveled to Germany to the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop and Museum Wiesbaden. In 2015, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri, mounted an exhibition of Sandback’s work and the major retrospective Fred Sandback: Light, Space, Facts was on view at Glenstone in Potomac, Maryland. In 2016, sculptures by the artist were installed in buildings designed by Luis Barragán, Casa Luis Barragán, Casa Antonio Gálvez, Cuadra San Cristóbal, and Casa Gilardi, in Mexico City. A solo exhibition of the artist’s work dating from 1967 to 1983 is on view at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, New Jersey. Fondation CAB in Brussels is currently presenting a solo exhibition, on view through June 25, 2022. A long-term installation of Sandback’s work, first installed in 2003, reopened at Dia:Beacon in December 2021.

Sandback’s work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; British Museum, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Yuz Museum, Shanghai.

David Zwirner has represented the Estate of Fred Sandback since 2004, previously presenting six solo exhibitions of the artist’s work, including a 2012 survey of important sculptures and drawings from each decade of his career in New York, a 2013 show at David Zwirner’s London location, and a 2016 presentation in New York entitled Fred Sandback: Vertical Constructions, which was accompanied by a catalogue published by David Zwirner Books with contributions by Yve-Alain Bois, David Gray, and Lisa Le Feuvre. The artist's seventh solo presentation at the gallery took place in April 2022 and a two-artist presentation entitled L’Objet Invisible: Giacometti / Sandback was on view at the gallery’s Paris location in 2022. 

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