A detail of Fred Sandback Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983/2022
Fred Sandback

David Zwirner is pleased to present a selection of works by American artist Fred Sandback that together highlight his wide-ranging formal vocabulary and treatment of space. The exhibition will be on view at the gallery’s 34 East 69th Street location in New York, where the domestically scaled interior will allow viewers an intimate engagement with a number of the artist’s signature formats. 

Over the course of decades, Sandback developed a singular, minimal formal vocabulary that elaborated on the phenomenological experience of space and volume with unwavering consistency and ingenuity. He largely dispensed with mass and weight by using steel rod, elastic cord, and acrylic yarn to outline planes and volumes in space, creating an extensive body of works that inherently address their physical surroundings. 

In his own words, Sandback described his sculpture as being “less of a thing-in-itself, more of a diffuse interface between myself, my environment, and others peopling that environment, built of thin lines that left enough room to move through and around. Still sculpture, though less dense, with an ambivalence between exterior and interior. A drawing that is habitable.”1

This will be the seventh solo presentation of Sandback’s work at David Zwirner. The gallery’s first exhibition was on view at Zwirner & Wirth in 2004, then located in the adjacent building at 32 East 69th Street.

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Learn more about the Fred Sandback Archive

Fred Sandback, in Here and Now: Fred Sandback. Exh. bro. (Leeds, UK: Henry Moore Institute, 1999), n.p. 

Image: Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Fred Sandback in Zurich, dated 2000. Photo by Thomas Cugini from Zurich

Fred Sandback, Zurich, 2000. Photo: Thomas Cugini, Zurich

Fred Sandback, Zurich, 2000. Photo: Thomas Cugini, Zurich

Using a formal minimal vocabulary, Fred Sandback is known for his committed exploration of sculptures that challenge space and volumes. Featuring sculptures, wood reliefs, drawings, and prints that span the artist’s career, this exhibition showcases the range of Sandback’s sculptural and spatial concerns.

An Installation view of Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

In her catalogue introduction for the exhibition Fred Sandback: Light, Space, Facts at the Glenstone Museum, curator Emily Wei Rales writes: “Sandback’s art is at once ethereal and monumental, literal and illusionistic, the result of the artist’s deep understanding and skillful manipulation of optical phenomena that occur only when the works are experienced in situ.”

And as Sandback said himself, “My work is ‘about’ any number of things, but ‘being in a place’ would be right up there on the list.”

A fluorescent blue acrylic on 1/32-inch diameter spring steel and elastic cord artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], dated 1968.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], 1968
Fluorescent blue acrylic on 1/32-inch diameter spring steel and elastic cord
Three (3) units, each: 36 x 2 x 3 inches (91.4 x 5.1 x 7.6 cm)
Overall: 112 x 3 x 3 inches (284.5 x 7.6 x 7.6 cm)

One of Sandback’s earliest sculptural constructions, Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR] (1968) is made with lengths of elastic cord and steel dipped in luminous blue paint. “The first pieces were high-key colors,” Sandback explained. “I thought the string had to be more visible, which wasn’t so.”

A detail of Fred Sandback, Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], 1968

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], 1968 (detail)

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], 1968 (detail)

A detail from a set of eight linoleum cuts on Japanese paper with cut edge by Fred Sandback, called Untitled, dated 1979.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, 1979
Set of eight (8) linoleum cuts on Japanese paper with cut edge
Plate, each: 7 x 7 inches (17.8 x 17.8 cm)
Sheet, each: 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (34.9 x 34.9 cm)
Framed, each: 16 1/8 x 16 1/8 x 1 7/8 inches (41 x 41 x 4.8 cm)

Sandback also created a prodigious body of prints, making use of the conventions of print media to explore the spatial concerns expressed in his sculptures. In the present group of linoleum cuts, produced in 1979, the artist depicts eight potential variations of a configuration similar to those found in Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR] (1968).

A detail of Fred Sandback, Untitled, dated 1979

Fred Sandback, Untitled, 1979 (detail)

Fred Sandback, Untitled, 1979 (detail)

An untitled sculpture by Fred Sandback, dated in 1971 and 1980.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, 1971/1980
Purple enamel on 1/4-inch diameter mild steel rod
Four (4) parts, each: 12 x 24 x 48 inches (30.4 x 60.9 x 121.9 cm)
Overall: 12 x 240 x 48 inches (30.4 x 609.6 x 121.9 cm)

Between 1968 and 1971, Sandback devised a series of sculptures executed in painted steel rod, each with four to six elements, with either equal or unequal spacing between the parts. Works from this series are in such public collections as the Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz.

Glenstone installation view, Fred Sandback

 Installation view, Fred Sandback: Light, Space, Facts, Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD, 2016. Photo by Cathy Carver

 Installation view, Fred Sandback: Light, Space, Facts, Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD, 2016. Photo by Cathy Carver

Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Vaduz Install Image

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz, 2005. Photo by: Thomas Cugini, Zürich

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz, 2005. Photo by: Thomas Cugini, Zürich

Walker Art Center Install Image

Fred Sandback, Untitled, 1968. Image courtesy the Walker Art Center

Fred Sandback, Untitled, 1968. Image courtesy the Walker Art Center

Though Sandback employed metal rod and elastic cord early in his career, around 1973 he adopted acrylic yarn as his primary material. Describing this shift, he explained, “I welded the metal pieces to partially define the boundaries of imagined solid volumes, but soon began to want to diminish that reference to a closed volume.”

A black acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), circa 1977 and 2022.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), c. 1977/2022
Black acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation

For Sandback, yarn’s ability to stay taut under tension and the ways in which its texture creates a sense of blurriness when viewed in space provided the artist an opportunity to further his exploration of the “physical perception of surface and boundaries.”

A detail of Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), circa 1977/2022

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), c. 1977/2022 (detail)

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), c. 1977/2022 (detail)

An installation view of a work by Fred Sandback at Dia Beacon

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, ongoing

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, ongoing

An installation view of a work by Fred Sandback at Dia Beacon

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, ongoing

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, ongoing

An installation view of a work by Fred Sandback at Dia Beacon

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, ongoing

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, ongoing

A selection of works on long-term view at Dia:Beacon provide a focused look at Sandback’s work with acrylic yarn.

Installation view of Fred Sandback in David Zwriner

Installation view of Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view of Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

A Photo by Thomas Cugini, of Fred Sandback in Zurich

Fred Sandback. Photo by Thomas Cugini, Zurich

Fred Sandback. Photo by Thomas Cugini, Zurich

A Photo by Christine Cadin of Fred Sandback at Hayward Gallery, London, circa 1980.

 Fred Sandback installing in Pier and Ocean, Hayward Gallery, London, 1980. Photo by Christine Cadin, London

 Fred Sandback installing in Pier and Ocean, Hayward Gallery, London, 1980. Photo by Christine Cadin, London

A green acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983 and 2017.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2017
Green acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation

“When one enters a room occupied by a piece of Judd or Morris, one’s consciousness is immediately absorbed by the object. On the contrary, in a space traversed by a thread, the sensation of void precedes the perception of the work. Space precedes it.”


—Valérie Mavridorakis, Fred Sandback: Ou le fil d’Occam

A detail of Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983/2017

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2017 (detail)

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2017 (detail)

A red acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983 and 2022.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2022
Red acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
An installation view, Fred Sandback, Fondation CAB, Brussels, circa 2021

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Le Flagey, Brussels, 2021

Installation view, Fred Sandback, Le Flagey, Brussels, 2021

An installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, London, circa 2013

Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, London, 2013

Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, London, 2013

A detail of an Installation view of Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983/2018

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2018 (detail)

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2018 (detail)

“There is always a kind of shift or jolt in Sandback’s constructions, when one loses the ordinary coordinates of egocentric perception; and yet, with the jolt, one does not feel lost or disoriented so much as lifted up, refreshed, as if one had entered into a delightful new game.”


—John Rajchman, Fred Sandback

Similarly to his work in printmaking, Sandback’s drawing practice provided an opportunity for him to elaborate on his explorations of space, line, and volume. The artist utilized a variety of media, including acrylic paint, pastel, and colored pencil, to create marks akin to the soft edges of the acrylic yarn employed in his sculptures.

An acrylic paint on paper by Fred Sandback, called Untitled, circa 1995.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, c. 1995
Acrylic paint on yellow tracing paper
53 x 12 inches (134.6 x 30.5 cm)
Framed: 58 x 17 3/4 inches (147.3 x 45.1 cm)
A colored pencil on paper artwork by Fred Sandback, called Untitled, dated 1986.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, 1986
Colored pencil on paper
46 7/8 x 36 1/2 inches (119.1 x 92.7 cm)
Framed: 51 3/8 x 41 1/4 inches (130.5 x 104.8 cm)

“A piece made with just a few lines at first seems very purist and geometrical. My work isn’t either of these things. In some ways, the drawings make that clearer than the three-dimensional pieces.”


—Fred Sandback

An installation view, Fred Sandback: Drawings, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, circa 2014

Installation view, Fred Sandback: Drawings, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, 2014 

Installation view, Fred Sandback: Drawings, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, 2014 

An installation view, Projects: Fred Sandback, Museum of Modern Art, New York, circa 1978

Installation view, Projects: Fred Sandback, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978

Installation view, Projects: Fred Sandback, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978

A black, blue, and white acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Vertical Construction), circa 1987 and 2020.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Construction), c. 1987/2020
Black, blue, and white acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
A detail from an untitled artwork (Sculptural Study, Four-part Vertical Construction) by Fred Sandback, circa 1987/2020

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Vertical Construction), c. 1987/2020 (detail)

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Vertical Construction), c. 1987/2020 (detail)

An Installation view of Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Fred Sandback, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

A black acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled, Mikado (Sculptural Study, Wall Construction), dated in 2001 and 2013.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, Mikado (Sculptural Study, Wall Construction), 2001/2013
Black acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation

Although Sandback’s legacy is often discussed in terms of his sculptures, the artist also made a series of wall-mounted wood reliefs, beginning in the mid-1990s. For Sandback, these works were a way to move away from the limitations of site-determined interior space.

An untitled sculpture by Fred Sandback, dated circa 2001.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, c. 2001
Black paint on wood
Left panel: 8 x 3 7/8 inches (20.3 x 9.8 cm)
Center panel: 8 x 3 7/8 inches (20.3 x 9.8 cm)
Right panel: 8 x 3 7/8 inches (20.3 x 9.8 cm)
Overall: 8 x 11 1/2 inches (20.3 x 29.2 cm)

As he explained, “one of my frustrations is that I got myself into always using the dynamics of the buildings I worked in, and so became bound temporally to the specific site. The new pieces extricate me from that segmentation of experience.”

A Photo by Lawrence Markey of Fred Sandback during the installation of Fred Sandback: Recent Work, Lawrence Markey Gallery, circa 1998.

Fred Sandback during the installation of Fred Sandback: Recent Work, Lawrence Markey Gallery, 1998. Photo by Lawrence Markey

Fred Sandback during the installation of Fred Sandback: Recent Work, Lawrence Markey Gallery, 1998. Photo by Lawrence Markey

“The most important thing is to realize that illusion is equivalent to reality—that there are holes in what’s real. Let go of conceptually conditioned realities. It’s not easy to get, though it’s always there if you want to.”

 

—Fred Sandback

A Photo by Neil Goldstein of Fred Sandback at Magasin 3.

Fred Sandback at Magasin 3. Photo: Neil Goldstein

Fred Sandback at Magasin 3. Photo: Neil Goldstein

Inquire about works by Fred Sandback

A red acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983 and 2022.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Six-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2022
Red acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
A black acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled, Mikado (Sculptural Study, Wall Construction), dated in 2001 and 2013.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, Mikado (Sculptural Study, Wall Construction), 2001/2013
Black acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
An acrylic paint on paper by Fred Sandback, called Untitled, circa 1995.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, c. 1995
Acrylic paint on yellow tracing paper
53 x 12 inches (134.6 x 30.5 cm)
Framed: 58 x 17 3/4 inches (147.3 x 45.1 cm)
An untitled sculpture by Fred Sandback, dated in 1971 and 1980.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, 1971/1980
Purple enamel on 1/4-inch diameter mild steel rod
Four (4) parts, each: 12 x 24 x 48 inches (30.4 x 60.9 x 121.9 cm)
Overall: 12 x 240 x 48 inches (30.4 x 609.6 x 121.9 cm)
A green acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), circa 1983 and 2017.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Ten-part Vertical Construction), c. 1983/2017
Green acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
An untitled sculpture by Fred Sandback, dated circa 2001.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, c. 2001
Black paint on wood
Left panel: 8 x 3 7/8 inches (20.3 x 9.8 cm)
Center panel: 8 x 3 7/8 inches (20.3 x 9.8 cm)
Right panel: 8 x 3 7/8 inches (20.3 x 9.8 cm)
Overall: 8 x 11 1/2 inches (20.3 x 29.2 cm)
A colored pencil on paper artwork by Fred Sandback, called Untitled, dated 1986.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, 1986
Colored pencil on paper
46 7/8 x 36 1/2 inches (119.1 x 92.7 cm)
Framed: 51 3/8 x 41 1/4 inches (130.5 x 104.8 cm)
A black, blue, and white acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Vertical Construction), circa 1987 and 2020.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Construction), c. 1987/2020
Black, blue, and white acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
A detail from a set of eight linoleum cuts on Japanese paper with cut edge by Fred Sandback, called Untitled, dated 1979.

Fred Sandback

Untitled, 1979
Set of eight (8) linoleum cuts on Japanese paper with cut edge
Plate, each: 7 x 7 inches (17.8 x 17.8 cm)
Sheet, each: 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (34.9 x 34.9 cm)
Framed, each: 16 1/8 x 16 1/8 x 1 7/8 inches (41 x 41 x 4.8 cm)
A fluorescent blue acrylic on 1/32-inch diameter spring steel and elastic cord artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], dated 1968.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Vertical Corner Piece) [LLR], 1968
Fluorescent blue acrylic on 1/32-inch diameter spring steel and elastic cord
Three (3) units, each: 36 x 2 x 3 inches (91.4 x 5.1 x 7.6 cm)
Overall: 112 x 3 x 3 inches (284.5 x 7.6 x 7.6 cm)
A black acrylic yarn artwork by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), circa 1977 and 2022.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Points Determining a Random Folding of an Imaginary Plane), c. 1977/2022
Black acrylic yarn
Situational: spatial relationships established by the artist; overall dimensions vary with each installation
A sculptural installation by Fred Sandback, titled Untitled (Broken Line), dated 1989.

Fred Sandback

Untitled (Broken Line), 1989
Aquatec cadmium yellow medium and Mars Black acrylic paint on acrylic yarn
78 x 4 x 4 inches (198.1 x 10.2 x 10.2 cm)

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