Bodily Sculptural Consciousness: Fred Sandback

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner is a show not to be missed.The show is eye popping, mind boggling, body bending good. It moves and destabilizes. It creates an alternative reality in real time. It uses the magic dust of illusion to silently invade and coexist in your space. You are free to roam and mingle with these alien masterpieces but I warn you, they are very very powerful. Do not be duped by their weightlessness and measly stature. Approach with a keen eye and don’t be afraid to circumvent and inspect from every possible angle, one degree at a time.

I first encountered Fred Sandback’s threadbare sculptures at Dia: Beacon where my eyes were open to the wondrous beauties of all things Minimalism and Conceptual. Alongside works by Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, Blinky Palermo and Robert Ryman, Sandback contributed a series of loosely site specific sculpture installations of yarn placed and displaced throughout a section of the museum. I remember being completely flabbergasted by his ability to make such a powerful mark using only yarn. And I thought, yarn? Yarn? YARN?!! It took a bit of time for my eyes and body to adjust to the challenge before me as I was put to the test of navigating in and out of space and time, demarcated by taut three dimensional lines. My frequent visits to Dia: Beacon always result in a cathartic cleansing experience and the sculptures of Sandback have more than contributed to an epiphanous experience, they have heavily influenced my particular appreciation of minimalist and conceptual art.

Upon hearing of the show at David Zwirner I was uber ecstatic and also curious to see how the works would play with a commercial white space like Zwirner. Result: I was near tears listening to these pieces conversating with me and its walls. Seeing the thread sparingly laid out through two of the three spaces was a treat I could have gluttonously visually consumed all day. There were a few pieces that were particularly moving.


via David Zwirner site

Untitled (Sculptural Study, six-part Construction), 1977/2008, Black acrylic yarn, dimensions variable

Pictures and words couldn’t justify the visual experience of this piece which consists of yarn outlining six partition like walls, each perpendicular to the next with enough walk through space in between. An overwhelming sense of solidity and mass presence coincides with playful ambivalence, including this not so serious viewer frolicking through the “walls”, marvelling at its ability to be so present and yet so ephemeral. At one point a woman took a picture of me mid flight as I hopscotched through the delicate constructions.


Not only are they so delightfully playful, they are tricksters of perspective. It is an absolute must to circumnavigate each sculpture and experience the illusions created at different angles. The entire time I was wondering how it is possible to make such a huge impact in so many different layers with so little material. The marked tension between the work and its surroundings is heavily tangible and almost intimidating.


via David Zwirner site

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Two part Vertical Construction), 1986/2008, black acrylic yarn, dimensions variable

Location and specific space is a contributor to how each piece is installed, with the artist working within and around the space allotted him to mark imaginary space with yarn. I wondered if the yarn was the same one used from 1986 or a new fresh piece, and how faithful the gallery was to install according to some set of instructions with space and measurement. How did the gallery know to install these two vertical grid walls in this way, perpendicular to each other and situated in between two skylights with one lined at the edge of the window. How particular was the artist in regards to placement? This particular piece gave off a strong illusion to floating and from a distance it was impossible to tell where exactly the ends were placed in relation to the floor and ceiling. It was flabbergasting.


I also wonder about his choice of color, why some are black, others red, or white, or blue, or yellow. Is there reasoning behind it? The black vertical grid such as above made it more of a jaildoor with no freedom to enter through, only around. This old gentleman was counting the number of lines between the ends, and he must have wondered, why are there 21 strings and not 20, or 23? Is there a point in wondering such arbitrary formal questions?

via David Zwirner site

via David Zwirner site

Untitled (Two color cornered construction) 1987, white and maroon acrylic yarn, 65.25 x 140 x 11.75 in

Look from afar and all you see is a short piece of red thread piercing through two walls meeting at a corner. Come closer and you see the red extends a few feet with white to one side of the wall. This irregular shelf is deceiving as it engages in its sharp crawl through wall space.

I am taken aback and humbled at every turn, each freestanding and wall based construction a reminder of what is not visible within our space, a reminder to maintain a playful free wheelin’ consciousness in our everyday encounters, feeling our way through voluminous emptiness and airless masses. The casual i these sculptures maintained have pierced and connected a deep abstract emotion within one viewer and its surrendered environment.

1 Comment

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One response to “Bodily Sculptural Consciousness: Fred Sandback

  1. Mellissa

    This was an enjoyable piece of writing! I’m glad I’m not the only one who frolics through Fred Sandbacks sculptures!

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