Carl Andre is a sculptor, critic, poet, photographer, and writer associated with the Minimalist movement of the late 1960s, and an old friend of Frank Stella, Robert Smithson, and Sol LeWitt. His understated but logical floor-hugging sculptures are recognised by Joseph Kosuth as an early influence on Conceptual Art.Read More
From 1951 to 1953 Andre studied art at Phillips Academy in Andover, where he often conversed with Stella and the avantgarde filmmaker Hollis Frampton about art possibilities. After two years in the army he went to New York, where Frampton introduced him to Constantin Brancusi, whom Andre hugely admired. There, he also reconnected with Stella to share a studio.
Interested in geometric grids, Carl Andre's sculpture is characterised by ordering structures like modular systems.
Talking with artist Frank Stella persuaded Andre that sculpture could be linear and abandon height. He realised he could make a type of Brancusi's Endless Column (1918) horizontal and flat, and extend it using matrixes of machine-cut zinc squares or lines of firebricks, with the work using weight, no adhesive, and featuring only one kind of object. Sometimes they can be walked on. See, for example, 144 Titanium Square (2011), 144 Magnesium Square (1969), Steel Zinc Plain (1969), Equivalent VIII (1966), and Lever (1966).
Andre greatly relates to the 'working man' ethos of blue-collar workers, because he spent four years working on the Pennsylvania Railroad as a brakeman and freight conductor. In fact he does not like being called a conceptual artist but sees himself as a sculptor very much concerned with the materiality of what he works with: its mass, substance, shape, and extension.
Andre has stated, 'I am certainly no kind of conceptual artist because the physical existence of my work cannot be separated from the physical existence of it ... I have a great anger against so called conceptual art because the great beauty of art ... is the simple fact [it] is close to nature, and ... conceptual art is ... not.'
Andre believes in the notion of 'sculpture as place': that the environment around a work is an essential part of it. A dramatic example is Stone Field Sculpture (1977), an installation of 36 large ice-age rocks on a lawn in Hartford, Connecticut.
Andre's poetry is concrete in that the word length is carefully controlled, so that stacked groups collectively form shapes on the page: sometimes rectangles, squares, or zigzagging geometric Brancusi-type formations. The content is in the Imagist tradition. Some of his books utilise pages of graph paper.
In 1988 Andre was tried by a judge for the murder of his wife, artist Ana Mendieta, who fell out of a high-rise apartment block window. He was subsequently acquitted, but her tragic death became highly politicised in the art world. As a result, some of Andre's later retrospectives attracted protesters and the words 'Where is Ana Mendieta' soon became a slogan for more female representation in the art world.
Andre's work is held in collections across the world, including Tate Britain, London; Museum for Modern Art, Frankfurt; Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Chinati Foundation, Marfa.
Andre has been the subject of major retrospectives around the world.
Recent solo exhibitions include Carl Andre, Dia Beacon, New York (2019); Carl Andre: Square Void Works, Konrad Fischer Galerie, Dusseldorf (2019); Carl Andre In His Time, Mnuchin Gallery, New York (2015); A Friendship: Carl Andre's Works on Paper from the LeWitt Collection, The Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, New York (2015); Carl Andre, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2014); Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958—2010, Dia Beacon (2014).
Significant group exhibitions include TOES, KNEES, SHOULDERS, HEADS + BUTTS & GUTTS, Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York (2021); Wood Works: Cut, Carved, Covered, Sperone Westwater, New York (2021); Chess Game. Carl Andre — Alighiero Boetti, Massimo de Carlo, Milan (2020); From the Truer World of the Other: Typewriter Art from the PAMM Collection, Perez Art Museum Miami (2017); Minimal Art From the Marzona Collection, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London (2017); The Xerox Book, Seth Siegelaub, John Wendler, New York (1968); Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors, Jewish Museum, New York (1966).
Carl Andre's website can be found here.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021