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'Fred Sandback: Drawings and Sculptures' opens at the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat
Fred Sandback, Two Intersecting Vertical Walls of Light, 1989. Kunstharzfarben auf Papier, 56 x 76,2 cm. Sammlung Verbund, Wien © 2014 Fred Sandback Archive.

BOTTROP.- The subtle articulation of space achieved by his sculptures has given American artist Fred Sandback (1943–2003) a reputation as one of the leading exponents of his generation only a decade after his death. His acrylic yarn and cord sculptures are paradigmatic works of Minimal Art, whose extreme reduction of material stimulates the viewers’ perception in a uniquely complex manner. Although they appear to be minimal, Sandback’s interventions leave a fundamental impression. Their deceptively simple forms metamorphose into complex and exciting shapes as we look, and it is for this reason that his works have been described as “sculptures of the mind.”

Sandback always considered line drawing an essential part of his work. In contrast to some of his contemporaries, however, he did not use the medium merely to sketch designs for his sculptures, but explored it as a means of aesthetic expression in its own right.

The Kunstmuseum Winterthur, the Museum Wiesbaden, and the Josef Albers Museum have now joined forces to organize the first retrospective exhibition of Fred Sandback’s drawings. More than 140 works created between 1967 and 2000, housed in collections in Europe and the United States, have been brought together with a number of the artist’s sculptures in an exhibition that reflects Sandback’s art in all its inherent complexity.

Sandback initally used drawing to outline his ideas of sculptural volume on paper, but soon left off depicting isolated elements and moved on to thinking about sculpture in terms of its relationship to space. The space in question was given rather than ideal, and this is precisely what makes Sandback’s explorations so fascinating. From these sketches it was only a small step to works no longer referencing a particular space, but instead defining the drawing paper as an autonomous space of its own. This was the apex of Sandback’s use of the line, allowing a masterful exploration of drawing in all its many facets.

In the 1980s Sandback began to integrate color into his drawings, producing more pictorial works that were about modulating space rather than about conceiving sculptures. In his late drawings, again, Sandback moved away from the constraints of space to think up sculptures that are boundless from all sides. In fact the drawings allude to only a specific detail of the sculptures, which gave rise to unusual techniques, such as actually cutting into the paper rather than drawing lines on it.

A particularly interesting feature of this exhibition is that it reveals an inherent affinity between Sandback’s works and the art of Josef Albers, for there are fundamental parallels to be found in the ideas of the two artists. Apart from their minimalist approach and rejection of any form of personal expression, both artists were deeply concerned with the act of seeing. Both understood the formal structure of the artwork – Sandback’s stretched lengths of yarn, Albers’s simple planes of color – as a fragile and preliminary skeleton that requires the viewer’s precise and unbiased gaze to unfold its significance. The real artwork exists only in our minds. In this open conception of the artwork, the visible and the invisible form two opposing but inextricably linked poles.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue edited by Dieter Schwarz and published by Richter Verlag, including ca. 180 color illustrations and texts by Mark Godfrey, Heinz Liesbrock, Dieter Schwarz, Edward A. Vasquez, and Gianfranco Verna. Price: EUR 38.

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