In 2016 sculptures by the artist Fred Sandback were exhibited in buildings designed by the famous architect and Pritzker Prize winner Luis Barragán. Entitled The Properties of Light, the on-site installation became a sensitive dialogue between the two creative disciplines – one that is now celebrated in a new book of the same name.
It stems from 2002 when Sandback had a show at the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City and he visited the Convento de las Capuchinas Sacramentarias. The chapel was designed in the 1950s by the famous architect Barragán for the Capuchin order. Deeply moved by the play of light, shadow, colour, and architecture there, Sandback discovered a fascination for Mexican architecture.
A year later, the American artist died. When his works were requested for another exhibition in Mexico City in 2016, the Sandback estate suggested displaying his sculptures in various buildings designed by Luis Barragán. With the permission of each property owner, Sandback’s sculptures – colourful acrylic threads strung taut to form geometrical figures – were installed inside or outside the various buildings, including the Casa Luis Barragán (1948) and the Casa Gilardi (1975–77).
After being documented in photographs, Sandback’s works vanished immediately, without a trace. The Properties of Light is an illustrated portrait of the meeting of two visionary spirits, whose absence defines their presence and makes it possible to see the way they mutually contrast and complement each other.
"The Barragán-Sandback pairing gives us a unique and very refined example of that respectful dialogue in absentia: on the one hand, both practitioners are now no longer with us; on the other, their ideas and creativity are still very much present, vital, and forceful. They have a clear-cut place in our mental archive and evoke very particular iconographies," writes the art historian Federica Zanco.
The Properties of Light is published by Hatje Cantz and available as a hardback for €40.