Fred Sandback

Sculptural Studies

How do you create a sculpture that has no interior ? How do you suggest the presence of volume without substance ? These seemingly paradoxical questions remain unanswerable, yet these are the questions that Fred Sandback asked himself, leading to the conception of his spider web-like sculptures.

Sculptural studies

Undoubtedly, the work of Fred Sandback illuminates a desperate contradiction: on one hand, the artist strives to craft his sculptures, and on the other hand he does everything possible to omit the materiality ; to make the space itself the starting point for multiple virtual forms, that can only be fully realized once seen by an observer.

In his polygonal piece, for example, the viewer is confronted with an empty space circumscribed by a wire running around a few centimeters of the floor. The rest of the work is a matter of conscience; of playing tricks with our expectations, our beliefs, our fears. In a sense, one could say that when standing before the sculptures of Fred Sandback, the viewer invents more than half of the work.

When encountering this work, it’s fitting to consider the famous phrase of Hume, that states "Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” Sandback’s sculptures have virtually no independent existence apart from the efforts of the spectators to understand what they are seeing. But what do they see exactly ? Simply an empty space? An area under pressure? A striated space? Who can say ? Each piece of Fred Sandback works on top of the empty; where the absence of physical substance turns into an invitation to dream.

Sans titre (Polygon) - Fred Sandback

But how does such an approach emerge in the mind of the artist? This story is worth telling: George Sugarman (friend of Sandback and himself a sculptor) grew tired of hearing repeated complaints from his friend about his work, and said to him in 1966, "Well, if you're tired of what you’re doing, why not just draw a line with a coil of wire and be satisfied ?” And so were born the first of the Sculptural Studies that Sandback will continue to create for nearly 40 years.

Sans titre (Sculptural Study, Cornered Construction) - Fred Sandback

Let’s confess it: it is difficult not to see in the life and work of Fred Sandback (who committed suicide in his studio in June, 2003) the presence of a contradiction that makes his character and his work simultaneously enigmatic and fascinating. Prisoner to a dilemma that only he could understand, this uncommon soul deserves our respect and our admiration—because he sought to give shape to what, by definition, could not receive it. And in a sense, he succeeded.

Frédéric-Charles Baitinger


Fred Sandback

Exhibit place

Galerie Nelson-Freeman

Fred Sandback (1943 - 2003)

du 21 Juin 2008 au 12 Septembre 2008

59, rue Quincampoix - 75004 Paris - Métro : Châtelet