Fred Sandback: Sculpture and Drawings - Press Release | April 1–May 1, 2004 | David Zwirner

Zwirner & Wirth will present ten sculptures and three drawings by Fred Sandback spanning four decades of the artist's career. The work of Fred Sandback has been exhibited extensively in Europe and United States since the late 1960s. His first one-person exhibitions were at the Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf, and the Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich, both in 1968. In addition, through the patronage of the Dia Foundation, Sandback was able to create a permanent installation of his work in, what he called, the Museum of Winchedon, which was open from 1981 to 1996. Most recently in 2003, several large sculptures were permanently installed at Dia Beacon, Beacon, NY.

The story of how Sandback began creating sculptures out of string is well documented by the artist and the historians. In 1966, George Sugarmann, in response to Sandback's frustrations with sculpture and sculptural practices, told him "Well if you are so sick of the parts, why not just make a line with a ball of string and be done with it". Following his first sculpture in string, Sandback realized that this material allowed him "to play with something existing and non existing at the same time".

In the years that followed, Sandback would explore the potential of this unique material with unwavering consistency and ingenuity. The string as a tool, rather than a means to an end, enabled Sandback to rework ideas about sculpture and space without veering into repetition or redundancy. He viewed each form as a "musical note that I push around". The diagonal, the vertical line or the "U" shape as seen in this exhibition, were viewed by Sandback as a "substructure" that he felt could be used again and again because each resulting piece would exist in a new light. He said that "the measure of the relative success of a piece is not necessarily that a new structure emerges but that a familiar one attains, in its present manifestation, a particular vibrancy or actuality". 

The gesture of the line is directly related to drawing and allowed Sandback to reference volume without relying on opacity. The choice of yarn, as opposed to wire or other types of string, was intentional because the intrinsic properties of yarn, with its fuzzy edges, gave equal weight to both the factual and the illusionistic. The yarn in its ability to create vacancy and volume simultaneously creates an almost phenomenological experience for the viewer. In our inability to affirm the actual presence of the yarn and its physical relationship to the viewer, due to perceptual and optical difficulties, the works articulate a space that we exist within. 

Sandback's notion of "being in a place" or being "inside" the work, was a concept that he developed in the 1960s. Fleeing from traditional pictorial ideas about sculpture, Sandback sought what he called a "pedestrian space", a concept which he said was influenced by an "awe of other cultures where art seemed to fit in the middle of things rather than on the periphery." Related to the "literal space" delineated by Donald Judd, the use of the term pedestrian connotes Sandback's interest in the mundane and the everyday, as well as the performative role the viewer ultimately plays when they occupy the same space as the sculptures. Sandback's lifelong artistic pursuit of what he termed the "wholeness of the situation" sums up his transcendental relationship to things and underlined his ideological attitudes about the world he lived in.

A fully-illustrated catalogue is available.

Artist Biography

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