Posts Tagged ‘Fred Sandback’

Different Strands: Sheila Hicks and Fred Sandback

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

In recent exhibitions in the Boston area, we were able to view the work of the artists Sheila Hicks and Fred Sandback, both of whom use various types of thread, yarn, and string. Though they share similar materials, their work couldn’t be farther apart.

Hicks makes work that has a real physical presence, sometimes with relatively flat woven pieces that take advantage of insights gained from her travels around the globe, at other times with huge colorful tendrils that fall from the ceiling or with coils of fiber arranged in loops on the floor. Over a long career, she’s explored many ways to employ the same materials to articulate different understandings of form. Sometimes the color is paramount—not surprising since she studied with Josef Albers, though exposure to Alber’s wife Anni, a textile artist and printmaker, might have had a lot to do with Hicks’ original move into fiber. At other times, texture or patterns are more important. A lot of the work explores the tension between two dimensional work and sculpture.

The show, at the newly reopened Phillips Academy’s Addison Gallery of American Art, also included some of the commercial pieces which paid the bills and an engaging video of the artist commenting on her work as she arranges photos for the book that became the catalog for the show. As a whole, the exhibition revealed a keen explorer of her materials.

Sandback, on the other hand, describes space without really taking possession of it—in the show at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum his geometrical shapes made of acrylic yarn and acrylic cords ask viewers to reevaluate their relationship to the spaces around them without something massive in front of them. He is essentially drawing in space, using the line of the cord to react to architectural interiors and asking us to reorient ourselves. In one piece that stretches from the fifth floor to the second, we come to understand the building as a work itself instead of just a box of art. In fact, I briefly considered lines that were part of the ceiling as works by Sandback.Though he once spoke of using yarn like a No. 2 pencil, it is often the contrast of his pieces with their surroundings that make his “lines” act as edges of 3-dimensional spaces. One might think of these pieces as being simple—and in terms of materials they are—but the range of expression from a few simple colored lines in space in his hands is tremendous.

Unfortunately the Hicks show is no longer at the Addison, but it can be seen at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania beginning on March 24. The Sandback show closes on March 6.