Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Might this Fred Sandback be the best work on the IMA's contemporary floor?

Title: Untitled
Artist: Sandback, Frederick Lane
nationality: American
birth-death: 1943-2003
Creation date: 1989
Materials: Tile-red acrylic yarn
Dimensions: 8.9 x 19.9 x 22.96 ft. (installed)
Location: J. Irwin & Xenia Miller Gallery
Credit line Purchased with funds provided by: Ann M. and Chris Stack
Copyright © Estate of Fred Sandback

Over the course of the last year or two, I have found myself making a point to head to the back corner of the contemporary floor into what I simply call the Fred Sandback room. A moderate sized room with parquet floors and a large floor to ceiling window that looks out on the massive wooded grounds that make up the future Virginia Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. The other Sandback's in the room, while interesting enough, hold little of the power that this particular work has. The economy of means and material to make such an impact is impressive. Simply a line of red yarn that dissects the room, from point a in the parquet floor to point b which pierces through a single point in the large glass window.

The poetry of the piece is what draws me back to this work with each visit to the museum. Something about how this red line draws the eye up and out that window, inviting me to look out onto the world and the simple beauty just outside the museum seems to me telling. Could this work even exist in another museum, without destroying the power it has in its current incarnation? I have my doubts. I must admit that my love of this work was not immediate, though my first encounter with it I found myself intrigued. With each continued visit to the museum, when passing by other works with out much ado, I would make a point to visit this work and really look at it, walk around the room to view it from multiple angles, attempt to experience the work. Slowly but surely it has risen towards the top of my list. Do I like it more than the current incarnation of the Adrian Schiess work, which play on similar themes and elements as the Sandback? I would have to say that is a close one to call in my book, I love them both. Does it hold up to or surpass the James Turrell or the Kara Walker? I would have to say it indeed holds its own in my eyes, but may be overlooked by most. Perhaps it is best to say that this untitled Fred Sandback is the sleeper hit of the IMA's contemporary collection. I would suggest that if you have not seen it in awhile, do not remember it, or have dismissed it in the past, next time you are at the IMA, give it another chance. Perhaps, with time, you too will have grown to enjoy it as much as I have.

Special thanks to Katie Zarich and the IMA photography staff for supplying these images, as this work has to be the hardest work ever to photograph properly. Damn near impossible in my opinion. All the more reason to go and see the work in person.

11 Responses to “Might this Fred Sandback be the best work on the IMA's contemporary floor?”

Christopher said...
May 28, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Not only (IMHO) is this the best piece in the IMA's contemporary collection, but that room is now my favorite piece of real estate in Indy. On par with Riley's tomb at Crown Point and the bridge that connects the zoo to White River State Park. If I'm in the neighborhood and have just a few minutes, I will often bypass all other work to make the trek to the Sandback room.

My only complaint is that the piece leads you to the window which now overlooks the Maya Lin installation which does absolutely nothing for me. It won't, however, stop me from going back again and again.

Anonymous said...
May 28, 2008 at 9:30 AM

I used to hate Sandback. Or maybe I was just unable to understand his work. Viewing this piece multiple times really helped me to get a better understanding of his work. This is easily one of the best pieces on the floor. This piece in particular is a great example of the importance of revisiting artwork and making an effort to understand what may or may not be initially appreciated.

Anonymous said...
June 1, 2008 at 10:11 PM

Take a step back. Can you both really be saying that a piece of string is the best mankind has to offer? A piece of string.

L.Z. said...
June 2, 2008 at 12:15 AM

More than a piece of string. It is the space around it.

I usually go say hello to my fav's around the corner- Vija Celmins. 2 of them!I believe one of them is a lithograph and it looks like a drawing to the surface of water.(beware of the light from the rauchenburg glaring onto her peices)She is so real. And also slightly perverse. For me, she has always defined the medium she uses rather than the medium define her.Also a great painter and she grew up in Indiana! a couple prints down form that is the Annie Albers....

Thanx for sharing your favorites!
Have you seen Sandback's work at the DIA in NY? I think it is even more powerful there. A Friend once mentioned that he thought "Richard Serra and Fred Sandback are essentially do the same thing" ....Interesting to think about.

Christopher said...
June 2, 2008 at 10:43 AM

So much more than a piece of string! It's graceful, harmonious and elegant. If you can't or don't want to buy into minimalism, than you are correct - it is just a piece of string, just like Serra is just a huge piece of steel. And I hadn't thought of Serra and Sandback like that before. I now can't wait to get back to Dia!

n. said...
June 3, 2008 at 12:46 PM

" Anonymous said...
Take a step back. Can you both really be saying that a piece of string is the best mankind has to offer? A piece of string."
But isn't it something that a red piece of string has spawned this conversation? Best? Who needs best? I'm tired of the best.

Barbara said...
June 8, 2008 at 12:47 PM This comment has been removed by the author.

Barbara said...
June 8, 2008 at 12:51 PM

I've had more discussions about this piece of red yarn than probably any other work of art in the museum. Here's how I usually wind up my side of the argument: "You don't have to like a work of art to understand it. But at least try to understand it before you dismiss it."

I often resort to analogies to the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, for whom the discussion about "Is it art?" is as important -- if not more important -- as the completed object itself.

It's the process and the conception, not the materials or mass of a piece, that constitute the work of art. (In the case of the the Sandback, it's the contrast between the thin line of the string and the mass it creates in the room that's so absorbing for me.)

Of course, this is hard to grasp at first. That's the point! I love that you really have to think about this piece to get it -- and I confess I'm only halfway there as to its deeper meaning.

Anonymous said...
June 10, 2008 at 2:19 PM

You're only halfway there because you still retain a bit of sanity.

It's a piece of string...but it's at an ANGLE!

OH MY GOD! An ANGLE! And the space around it... ooooh, the space..... such... space.... the air... the whiteness of it all.

The best part about this "work" is that the artist has pulled off the biggest stunt on IMA and the rest of you by passing off this joke as art.

I'm into minimalist art and love it when it shows craft and cleverness and an aesthetic sense, but this is simply a piece of string.

I wonder what they paid for it?

Scott said...
June 11, 2008 at 4:25 AM

Not much on Sandback I see. But you are apparently into and on occassion love minimalist art but question that a minimalist artist would use "string" to make a work of art. You may have missed the point of his gesture. There is certainly craft involved as it can't be all that easy to run a piece of string between two points one in the floor and the other through a point in a large picture window, notice there are no janky fastners visible, just the clean red line, simplicity at its best. That is craftsmanship (though in this particular case, I would assume that we owe a big part of that to the IMA installers). As for cleverness and an aesthetic sense, I think the piece has much of both, but we will have to agree to disagree I guess. But I like the fact that this particular piece works in several different ways, as a sculpture, a drawing, and a painting.

Anonymous said...
September 26, 2008 at 10:59 PM

I have heard many people stating "This isn't art" when they walk by it... Makes my want to blow my brains out. I love this shit!


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