New York

Fred Sandback

John Weber Gallery

Fred Sandback’s Sixteen 2-Part Pieces took place in the small room at the Weber Gallery. Sixteen times the artist changed the location of two taut, dark pieces of yarn that crossed the room from wall to wall. He had planned in advance where the lines should run on a diagram in the Gallery office. I saw the first couple of pieces, and my feelings went something like this. After I saw the diagrammatic drawing, I think I grasped the principle. Then I saw the first variation and that confirmed the feeling that I had the news already. The next variation was evidence of the punctiliousness of the artist, or of somebody acting for him (what’s the difference?), but I felt no increase in the input of information concerning Sandback’s work. Seeing the pieces enacted did not add to the artist’s clear initial statement of purpose.

What I liked about the pieces, and I feel I can speak about them all because the system of which they are part is not one that can support a surprise, if the artist adheres to it, as I have every reason to think he will, is their sophistication. I am pleased that works of such tenuous refinement are worth somebody’s while to put on. A pleasure pavilion of Minimal art, it is a Xanadu of sensory deprivation. The attenuated elegance of the series is very soothing and placid on an environmental scale. Such a system is more reasonably given as a proposition or a record than as a spatial experience, as can be seen from the artist’s 16 Variationen von 2 Diagonale linen, a pamphlet of 1972, put out by a group of German galleries and the Kunsthalle, Bern. Here the repeated gray schematic of the room and the variable two lines printed in yellow make one of those nice low-profile books the art world abounds in at present. To step in the room once, and once more, reveals the fact that there is the lack of a sufficiently intricate stimulus.

––Lawrence Alloway