Le Fil d’Occam
“Fact and illusion are equivalents.’ ‘Trying to weed one out in favor of the other is dealing with an incomplete situation. […] ‘In no way is my work illusionistic. Illusionistic art refers you away from its factual existence toward something else. My work is full of illusions, but they don't refer to anything.” Fred Sandback, 1973
Le Fil d’Occam (Occam’s Razor), organized in collaboration with the Fred Sandback Estate, pays homage to the radicalism and purity of Sandback’s work with a selection of sculptures, drawings and prints made between 1967 and 2002. This first show in Marian Goodman’s Paris space echoes the two exhibits at the New York gallery in 1983 and 1985.
Emerging from the American scene of the 1960s, and particularly influenced by Minimalism, Sandback (1943–2003) sought to raise line to a new, pure level by working with acrylic yarn, creating multidirectional networks that map out materially fragile yet precise geometrical forms and volumes in space.
In an essay titled “Fred Sandback, or Occam’s Razor,” which inspired the exhibition title, Valérie Mavridorakis notes: “Sandback’s art can be defined primarily as drawing, eliminating anything that is not line, defined by the quality and thickness of the yarn. Now these lines appear charged with energy; they cut through the emptiness, cut up bits of space, present us with a diffuse ensemble of perceptual experiences. For this art does not have an a priori existence; it is constituted wholly within our experience of it.”1
To achieve this, Sandback developed a rigorous and durable practice. After experimenting with a number of materials in his early works, including elastic cord in Untitled (Corner Piece) (1967), in the mid.1970s he settled on acrylic yarn. This could be white, black, or coloured – a choice which was made intuitively in response to the context.
Although each work was developed in conversation with the specificities of the architectural settings, Sandback’s three-dimensional works were never limited to a fixed site; they can be reinterpreted. As such, some twelve sculptures, including Untitled (Sculptural Study, Twelve-Part Vertical Construction) 1982/2016, or indeed Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Wall Construction) 1999/2008, have all been reinstalled in the gallery for this show.
Based not only on the tension of the lines but also on the invisibility of the system for fixing the yarn in the wall, floor or ceiling, Sandback’s sculptures offer a unique aesthetic that helps to stimulate the viewer’s imagination.
“When the line draws a plane – for example, a rectangle raised up between the floor and the wall, we tend to imagine it as a transparent partition, as an invisible screen. In this way, two lengths of yarn somehow give emptiness a corporeal presence. Further, while the form remains open, we complete it mentally, tracing imaginary spatial frontiers. In these immaterial labyrinths, the viewer’s ambulatory, visual and imaginary aptitudes are constantly being brought into play.” 2
This exhibition gains a further dimension from the inclusion of several drawings. Always linked to Sandback’s sculptures, these have a twofold function, as both preparation and record. Witness a plan for Untitled (Blue Line, 11 meters long, Konrad Fischer Gallery, Düsseldorf, 1969); a drawing from 1995 related to the series of Broken Line sculptures, or again, a drawing in black and white pencil on blue paper from 1985 dating from one of his Parisian exhibitions.
Parallel to the gallery exhibition, a selection of lithographs, etchings, screenprints, and woodcuts will be on view at the gallery bookshop, Librairie Marian Goodman, at 66 rue du Temple.
A catalogue featuring the essay Fred Sandback ou Le Fil d’Occam, together with numerous illustrations, will be published. It will be launched on October 11, from 6.30 to 8 PM, at Librairie Marian Goodman. Valérie Mavridorakis will give a talk on Sandback’s work on this occasion.