June 30, 2003 by

Fred Sandback


Categories: Artists

String. Yarn. Wire. These were the simple items Fred Sandback turned into art.

As a youth, Sandback made stringed instruments like dulcimers and banjos. But when he matured, he turned his strings into art by sculpting with yarn and painting with string. His work has been featured in galleries in Dusseldorf and Cologne, Germany, and at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

“The first sculpture I made with a piece of string and a little wire was the outline of a rectangular solid … lying on the floor. It was a casual act, but it seemed to open up a lot of possibilities for me,” Sandback wrote in 1986.

Sandback committed suicide on June 23. He was 59.

11 Responses to Fred Sandback

  1. Judith Roth

    There were none finer. I shall never forget Fred lunging like a wide receiver across the floor of his apartment to catch my 2 year old daughter before she fell to the ground. All the love in the world to him, to Amy and to his family.
    Judith Roth
    Singer Building 10B

  2. dachamp

    it is sad to hear of fred’s death. when i started working with line in 3 dimensial space there were very few references to draw from. fred was way better at this game then patrick ireland. in fact the articulations of space, in his work, is clear and reduced allowing the viewer to experience the conceptual. much art has strived to achieve without much success.
    thanks fred

  3. Lois

    I received my alumni news today from Williston and was very sad to read of Fred’s death. I was at the Northampton School for Girls when Fred was at Williston Academy and I consider him my first “official” beau. My memories of him seem almost surreal, as most of my memories of the sheltered prep school life of that period. I remember sitting in the parlor with Fred on Sunday afternoons at Northampton; I remember picking him up when his ship from Rotterdam arrived in New York, and I remember thinking that he would not live an ordinary life.
    My sincerest condolences to him family.

  4. judith margolis

    Fred and I and our (then) spouses were in a childcare co-op in Park Slope, Brooklyn together . This was 1967-68 when Annika and Peter and our two were really little.
    He and I would sit in the sand box in Prospect Park and play with the kids and laugh and do art projects with them. After we always ended up in his studio or mine talking about our art and he encouraged me in my work .
    WE moved and he and Peggy broke up and though we wrote to each other from time to time I was out of touch with him towards the end.
    The news of his death was/is a terrible and confusing shock
    I am working on an artist’s book about his decision to end his life called -“cheshbon nefesh” which is Hebrew for “accounting of the soul”

  5. andy hoffman

    I was just surfing the net when I came upon this blog. I’m so sorry to hear about your father.
    I hope you get everything you want in life.

  6. Terry

    This month at the Fruit market in Edinburgh (April 2006)is an Exhibition of some of Fred’s sculptures.
    I had not come across his work before and I realise that, thatputs me out there with all the “ignorants” but when I walked in I immediately felt as one with his work.
    And it saddens me that one who had so much to offer the world is no longer with us to share his vision. I was looking for his address to voice my admiration I wish that I had had the opportunity to have met him. Thank you for giving me, a fellow artist the opportunity to express my admiration

  7. clemens hollerer

    fred pulled quite a few important strings in my life. I will see his retrospective in graz/austria next week.
    wonderful work

  8. Qasim Zaidi

    My first thought on seeing Sandback’s work at Dia Beacon a few years ago was astonishment at the primacy of surface perception. Even when the surface can at best be some ephemeral transparent sheet, that is what my brain insisted on seeing, not just the physical strings of yarn. How did our brains learn this trick, and why? There just do not seem to be many transparent sheets in nature. Is it just that in the absence of any texture or color interfering with the shape depicted by the contour/silhouette, the brain supplies the shape that the contour would contain. Today one of my students came back raving over the same installation. I Googled Sandback to see if I could get him to give a talk and to question him about how complex a space curve could be and still convey the same illusion. It is a shock that somebody with such a nimble mind elected to end his life at such an early age. I feel sad and deprived of the new things he would have made.

  9. George L. Vogt

    Fred was one of my roommates during freshman year at Yale–the other was an engaging Dutchman who is now a physician in the Netherlands– and our paths crossed only once or twice in the years after college. I do recall Fred showing me some small plexiglass sculptures that he’d created, and I mentioned that they reminded me of some of Pevsner’s work. Wrong. They were “anti-Pevsner.” That’s why I’m a historian and he was a sculptor. In retrospect, Fred’s interest in defined (barely) spaces was already at work.
    But before that, he produced all manner of art while he found his focus. Our family still enjoys a small piece of his that I bought for $10 when Fred needed some freshman year cash and gave as a present to my father. It’s a tall hand carved wooden cat perched on a crushed beer can, called “Alley Cat.” The humor is sly, almost Scandinavian, and that’s exactly how I remember Fred.
    I found this blog after happening upon a gallery here in Portland, OR, that has several of Fred’s pieces. I ran a web search and found all manner of references to his work and exhibitions, as well as this blog. To Fred’s family, please know that many of his classmates remember him fondly and proudly.
    George Vogt
    Oregon Historical Society

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