Gallerynote 2/2005

April 23 to June 25, 2005

FRED SANDBACK (1943  2003), Drawings 1968 – 2000
The artist legend handed down by Plinius with the famous Greek painters Apelles and Protogenes as its protagonists describes a contest between the two artists played out with a total of three fine lines. Arriving unannounced in the house of the absent Protogenes, Apelles draws a single line on the other's drawing board. Upon returning, Protogenes immediately recognizes the hand of his rival and outdoes the initial masterstroke with an even finer line. Yet Apelles does not admit defeat. In another color, he extends a third line all the way across between the two lines. The fact that the painters deem the thus created work as complete and worthy of keeping is one of the peculiar points of the anecdote. In our imagination, the story from antiquity leaves behind an abstract linear drawing that owes its existence in our mind to the particular prestige and potential of the line. Even scant constellations of lines possess the character of a sign.

And our perception is oriented to lines, both those that are concealed and those that are visible. Lines depict space and construct perspectives. The line likewise lends itself to the delineation of surfaces and bodies.

«The line is a means to mediate the quality or timbre of a situation, and has a structure which is quick and abstract and more or less thinkable, but it's the tonality or if you want, wholeness of a situation that is what I'm trying to get at,» noted Fred Sandback in 1986. Purism, unambiguity, geometry – all attributes connected with the idea of the line – are manifestly rejected by the very artist whose lifework can be identified as it were with the line.

Sandback wanted to generate complex experiences that were given to him through and by means of his work. From the beginning, he wanted to make sculptures, but only those sculptures exhibiting neither volume nor mass and encompassing no interior. The line came to him quite naturally in his early attempts. It was as a real thing and material, usable and workable, that he found it. Initially in the form of steel wire and rubber string and later as acrylic yarn.

The significant, intelligent artist and draughtsman recognized early on that the sheet of paper, the pencil and the style offer additional visual possibilities and necessitate representational forms that on one hand have to do with the work in the exhibition space, being closely related to it, and yet on the other exemplify the themes of the work in a more descriptive way. The spatial and material reality of the built sculptures inform as it were the fictional representation with drawings and graphic works and directs their readability. Seldom are the drawings merely sketches or working drawings, which would have been unsatisfactory considering Fred Sandback's genuine interest in his drawing work. The line drawing is for the most part placed in the center of the sheet of paper. The levels of the picture are ordered and weighted according to the significance of the picture elements. Often a fine isometric construction of a real existing space is put underneath. The viewer stands outside the representation. He sees the space as a three-dimensional plastic body. Into this view of space, the artist defines the sculpture with a colored pencil. The strongly drawn lines manifest themselves with clear ambiguity as both a projection of the sculpture and as an autonomous and self-certain sign. The illusionistic isometric spatial outline causes the sculpture to thus appear as a Vierge ouvrante-type cabinet figure. A step forward is taken by other sheets on which the solid strokes of colored chalk exist in a surmisable spatial relation to one another, deriving from this the stability and security of their positioning. A step back is then taken the drawings of isometric representations of space that are freely worked with the pastel chalk.

Our exhibition is designed as a retrospective. It encompasses over forty works. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication.


Giulio Paolini - Esposizione Universale, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, April 23 to June 24, 2005

Joseph Egan - Working on a Building, Gartenflügel Ziegelbrücke, May 1 to June 5, 2005

Art 36 Basel, June 15 to 20, 2005, Halle 2.0, Stand S2