“Fred Sandback: Sculpture and Works on Paper” at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum is a mini survey of one of the canonical Minimalists. Here are six of his signature yarn sculptures featuring lines stretched taut along gallery walls and in the spaces between. They resemble geometric drawings floating in thin air.
In one 1980s artwork, two designs bridge a corner of the room: a horizontal red-yarn line and, above it, a yellow-yarn rectangle missing its top line. Your mind craves to complete the rectangle. A wall piece in black yarn from the mid 1980s looks like a horizontally stretched letter H or some sort of mathematical symbol. “Untitled (Sculptural Study, Broken Triangle),” from 1989, outlines a three-story-tall triangle.
Sandback (1943–2003), who grew up in New York state and spent time in New Hampshire, displays pure devotion to the Minimalist faith of focused attention on the subtle relationships among simple, often industrial objects, the viewer, and the space they share. So if you’re tuned in, he seems to outline a force field with a 1968 trapezoid outlined in gray yarn stretching between the gallery wall and floor. If you’re in the right Zen state of mind, you could dream up much from these simple yarn lines, but it’s all so arid and feels so much like mathematical equations that I tend to resist his spell.
“Fred Sandback: Sculpture and Works on Paper” Wellesley College’s Davis Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Oct. 5, 2010, to March 6, 2011.
Pictured at top: Sandback, “Untitled (Two-part Vertical Construction),” 1981, orange and black acrylic yarn. All Sandback art courtesy of the Fred Sandback Estate and Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, and photo by Richard Howard Photography.
Fred Sandback (background): “Untitled, (Sculptural Study, Three-part Wall Construction),” ca. 1985/2010, black acrylic yarn, and (foreground/partial view): “Untitled (Sculptural Study, Broken Triangle),” 1989/2010, yellow/tan, salmon, gray/blue acrylic yarn.