New York

Fred Sandback

Heiner Friedrich Gallery

Three separate pieces, installed at different times over an interval of several weeks, comprised Fred Sandback’s most recent show. The idea of three installations would seem to stress the fact that the minimal is most important in his work; otherwise, we can assume all three could have been managed in the space simultaneously. The concept is a flattering one for Sandback, since it supports his creation of a perfect space within the vastness of the entire gallery.

All three pieces are constructed with Sand back’s trademark—black yarn, strung in various configurations from floor to ceiling. Breaking into designs in variations on straight lines, the yarn sets up inferences of geometric shapes and modules. It travels from floor to ceiling in a straight line from either end of another piece that travels along the floor and then up to the ceiling again, etc. Neatly aligned, any “displacement” of space comes only from the willingness of the viewer to consider space as displaced; by standing off to one side of the strings and bisecting the resultant view, using the yarn as if slicing through a volume of space. In other words, mentally transposing the linear physicality of the string to an inference of volumes between the strings can create the effect of redefining the gallery area.

Other than that, Sandback’s pieces remain elegant line drawings, implying a near decadence both in the “wasteful” emptiness of their sites and in his continuing exclusive concern for minuscule variations on a familiar theme. Hardly changed since last year’s P.S. 1 installation, it becomes a question of how often one theme with one set of materials can be repeated. The results may be suitably attractive, but no new information is being conveyed, and no real progress on the part of the artist is being shown. Most Minimalism existed side-by-side with the idea of the minimal as its content. Repetitions, modular arrangements, numerical progressions in sculptural pieces were enough, since their built-form was merely a signal to the viewer to respond with recognition of new, sometimes shocking work. It was more the idea of Minimal sculpture than the physical form of the piece that was being presented.

Now, to be blunt, the thrill is gone. Sandback has certainly lost none of his old touch; his drawings and installations are as precise as ever. But he is not producing work that even hints of change, or expansion, or growth. After a certain interval, even Minimalists need to offer more.

Deborah Perlberg