New York

Fred Sandback

Weber Gallery

In his show at Weber, Fred Sandback continues to mark off corners of the gallery’s rooms by spanning them with elastic cord or by spanning them with hypothetical planes defined by elastic cords. Sandback has six pieces in this show, three of which amount to pairs of horizontal, parallel, colored elastic cords attached at each end to adjacent walls of a corner, and in two cases, the cords are parallel horizontally. The third case is a bit more interesting as the two cords are parallel diagonally. That is, the light blue cord about three feet closer to the corner intersection is also a few inches lower on the wall than the outer ochre cord; thereby an illusion of looking up at the two cords is established even though the higher outer cord is exactly at my eye level, which means that most people aren’t really looking up at the cords.

In another piece, two orange cords extend vertically parallel, one on each of the two walls forming a corner, establishing a hypothetical vertical plane which seems to span the corner in much the same way the cords of the other works actually do span a corner. The two remaining pieces establish hypothetical planes spanning corners not conventionally thought of as corners, which are the corners formed by the meeting of the walls and the floor. In one of these works, a light blue cord 20’ long stretches on the floor parallel to the wall and 7’ from it; a second cord also 20’ long extends along the base of the wall parallel to the floor and 6" from it. Thus two lines parallel to a third line (the line of the corner formed by the intersection of two planes) are parallel to each other, and a diagonal plane is hypothetically formed between the two cords. The hypothetical plane formed by another piece is also a diagonal one spanning a floor corner, but the cord on the wall parallel to the cord on the wall is missingand is replaced by two cords, each extending vertically parallel from the ends of the floor cord to points high up on the wall forming a hypothetical rectangle, open at the top and leaning against the wall.

Sandback’s parallel cords, in a sense, define geometric planes as any two parallel lines define a plane, but they cannot limit the planes which are infinite; and this goes as well for his earlier closed configurations in which we tend to read the plane as inside the configuration of the cords rather than as extending beyond it as would a geometric plane. And here is a conflict, for Sandback’s cord lines define only a geometric plane and not a physical plane, yet they cannot define a geometric plane by the fact that the cord lines are physical, having more than the one dimension of length. Therefore, they define no plane of any kind or they define an infinite set of planes and thus are similar to the drawing that accompanies a geometric proof and is sometimes confused with it. But if Sandback’s planes are not geometric, they can remain planes inferred from a hypothetical confusion. Sandback’s planes then are but imaginary planes suggested by the placement of the cords, and theoretically correct or not, we read a plane formed by two parallel cords (and of course, the cords are only roughly, informally parallel by virtue of their physicality) and we even identify the ends of the cords with the limits of the suggested planes. What seems most interesting in all this discussion is that it is based purely on a set of inferences which relate only in the most tenuous way to the literal premises from which they supposedly follow; that is, in a strictly literal sense, there are no planes at all in Sandback’s work, only elastic cords, and yet it seems inescapably correct to infer planes from Sandback’s cords through the mediation of geometric rules which clearly cannot apply to this situation.

If there is a problem in Sandback’s work, however, it is not in theoretical confusions which seem rather to be the work’s interest. The problem is that Sandback has been doing these things with hardly any significant development for a long time, at least four years, and the question is how much longer is he going to continue repeating himself?

Bruce Boice