Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seeing linear, thinking planar

Fred Sandback
Jensen Gallery
7 May – 21 June 2008

Andrew Jensen has been bringing some impressive overseas art to Auckland for several years now, and this new show continues that tradition. Fred Sandback (1943- 2003) was a pioneer American minimalist artist whose sculpture is little known, even in the country where he lived, the United States. Certainly his work has never been seen in New Zealand Aotearoa before.

When I say ‘minimalist’, he was not part of that important group of sculptors in the sixties that included Judd, Morris, and Andre, though he was taught by Judd and Morris. Sandback is from a later generation not interested in say, phenomenology, but in work with a very understated, ‘dematerialised’ quality. To do this he made implied forms using tightly stretched acrylic yarn: lines in space that described planes. The coloured lines describe the edges of forms the viewer cannot see, but their imagination creates invisible planes that spatially link up those edges. The work is about perceptual nuances of suggestion.

The colours are consistent within each work, as are the number of strands (between one and three) for each vertical or diagonal edge. These have their ends firmly attached to the floor, ceiling or wall.

The most impressive sculpture is the large leaning triangle in the large main gallery where the line looks as if done with a black paintstick – due to the furriness of the three parallel strands used. They combine to look thick and muscular, as if drawn by say Richard Serra.

The vertical ‘rectangle’ sculptures are interesting too, with their sets of dropping adjacent planes – especially those in Jensen’s office. Peculiar things happen when the ascending lines reach into the rafters. The suggested planes suddenly disintegrate, as they also do when the lines merge with the dark carpet below.

The prints are interesting because of their link to the sculpture, and as 2D aids in Sandback’s thinking. Yet by themselves, they are not linear wizardry, like say Josef Albers glorious linear investigations into perspectival space, for they are too simple. Their background colours dominate and operate in a way that is the opposite of the coloured lines of the sculpture.

The yarn sculptures though are very special. They have a presence, a wonderful ‘actuality’ when you stand close to them. They are not cerebral or dry, just superbly inventive – a terrific display of elegant drawing in 3D space.

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