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Collections> Browse Carl Andre

Carl Andre
Holdings (18)
2 sculptures, 2 edition prints/proofs, 5 drawings, 7 books, 1 periodical, 1 poster

Wikipedia About Carl Andre

Carl Andre (born September 16, 1935) is an American minimalist artist recognized for his ordered linear format and grid format sculptures. His sculptures range from large public artworks (such as Stone Field Sculpture, 1977 in Hartford, CT and Lament for the Children, 1976 in Long Island City, NY) to more intimate tile patterns arranged on the floor of an exhibition space (such as 144 Lead Square, 1969 or Twenty-fifth Steel Cardinal, 1974). In 1988, Andre was tried and acquitted in the death of his wife, artist Ana Mendieta. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Carl Andre, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

In a conversation with artist Hollis Frampton in 1962, Carl Andre suggested that his need in terms of sculpture could be fulfilled by “three one-inch bright steel ball bearings,” while his need in terms of literature could be satisfied by reading the New York telephone directory.1 Such a statement sums up concisely the program of an artist who for more than forty years has conducted simultaneous sculptural and poetic careers. Even if poetry preceded sculpture, both practices share the same methodology. In both, Andre’s attempt is to separate matter/materials from representation in order to reach the essentials or the smallest necessary denominator of art.

Ideographic and calligraphic, Andre’s poems share a lineage that includes Stéphane Mallarmé’s A Throw of the Dice, Guillaume Apollinaire’s It Rains, Ezra Pound’s Cantos, and the 1950s Brazilian movement of Concrete poetry by the group Noigrandes,2 which extended its ramifications into music, architecture, and the aesthetically revolutionary international art movement of Neo-Concretism. In his poems, the structure is the content and vice versa. Generally typed on 8 ½-by-11-inch sheets of paper, the poems combine particles of texts that exhaust the physical space of the page. Deliberately confounding what is to be seen and what is to be read, Andre explores the formal, plastic potential of the typewriter, drawing from the abstract aesthetic of the Russian Constructivists of the 1920s, for whom the form of art fundamentally derived from the medium (colors, sounds, words) and its construction. Andre’s Concrete poems often are emblematic of such graphic experimentation in which impersonal materials and an industrial, if not bureaucratic or engineering, sensibility allow the principle of composition to be replaced by one of construction.

L A M E N T O N T H E I N D I A N W A R S 1 9 6 5 (1965) is organized differently as a column at the center of the page. It is literally a stacking of words, such as “white, land, red, heads, bone, blood,” in which the plural s is often obliterated by red ink. The rough and rhythmic alternation of words and the weight of the red editorial marks provide, beyond any narrative structure, a visual and resonant equivalent of the brutality of the Indian wars in the American colonies. Written in 1965, the piece seems to echo an early series of poems that Andre wrote combining his fascination with the Indian war of King Philip (1675–1676) and the book Indian History, Biography, and Genealogy by E. W. Peirce.3 The structure of these poems was built by the isolation of each word from the original Peirce text. About them, Andre declared, “History has given me a subject, history has not given me a method.”4 His method—consisting of combining words and eliminating the voice of the poet, narrative, or anecdote to the benefit of the material—is also one he applies to sculpture by combining masses and eliminating the “hand” of the artist.

Since the late 1950s, Andre has contained his sculptural practice within three specific techniques: stacking, dispersing, and aligning. The range of materials he chooses is diverse: wood, stone, and metal. He dismisses alloys and refuses mixtures. The materials are systematically arranged as units measuring the available space and seen as its two-dimensional extension. Over the years, Andre’s sculptural interest has shifted from a focus on the shapes and objects to the structure of space.

Aisle (1981), a geometric alignment of thirty-eight 1-by-1-by-3-foot wood timbers, is characteristic of Andre’s use of interchangeable units of raw, uncut materials to both divide the space and provide its phenomenological measurement.5Slope 2004 (1968) is an alignment of six thin, 36-square-inch, hot-rolled steel plates on the floor, running as a diagonal from the wall. It belongs to a body of Andre’s sculpture that, under diverse geometrical arrangements, invites the audience to step, walk, and stand on the work. More than moving the experience of art from the visible to the tactile, such a work subverts the traditional understanding of what sculpture and its experience are. It echoes and anticipates radical practices that unfold a sociopolitical critique of institutional art by requiring the direct engagement of the audience; in this relationship, the work functions as a place, a public sphere rather than an object.

An essential protagonist of Minimalism, Andre has succeeded in overcoming the literal reduction of a visual syntax to elementary geometrical forms by building—through his use of materials—a critical monument to the United States, its history, its literature, its nature, and its industry.

  1. “On Sculpture and Consecutive Matters, October 14, 1962,” in Carl Andre/Hollis Frampton: 12 Dialogues 1962–1963, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, ed., (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; New York: New York University Press, 1980), 13.

  2. The group Noigrandes was founded in 1952 by three poets from São Paulo, Brazil: Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos, and Decio Pignatari. Noigrandes and Concrete poetry were seminal to the birth of the Neo-Concretism movement that included such artists as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark and led to an aesthetic revolution across the disciplines.

  3. Ebenezer Weaver Peirce, a Federalist soldier, devoted his attention after the war to local (Massachusetts) biographical and historical writing under the title Indian History, Biography, and Genealogy, published in 1878.

  4. “On Certain Poems and Consecutive Matters, March 3, 1963” in Carl Andre/Hollis Frampton, 77.

  5. The interchangeable and serial nature of the work suggests Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column (1938), except that Andre brings the traditional phallic verticality of that sculpture down to the endless horizontality of railroad tracks.

Vergne, Philippe. “Carl Andre.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

© 2005 Walker Art Center