The work of Carl Andre

Recently discovered the work of Minimalist, Carl Andre from a NYT article discussing an upcoming book by Phaidon Press. The book entitled Carl Andre: Things in Their Elements corresponds with an upcoming  retrospective being planned by Dia:Beacon for 2013.

I love the basic, formally sculptural elements of the above work. Hardly if at all worked. Just materials placed/stacked etc. Andre started as craftsman-sculptor but quickly turned to Minimalist, after an encounter with Frank Stella. As the piece explains Stella’s words were deeply informative.

As Mr. Andre tells it, on one occasion he was carving a Brancusi-inspired vertical wood sculpture with recesses suggesting the spaces between ladder rungs, when Mr. Stella took a look at the plain, un-carved back of the sculpture and remarked that it was good sculpture too. What he had apparently meant was that Mr. Andre might consider carving that side as well, but Mr. Andre understood the words differently, that perhaps the untouched flat side of the timber was better than what he had carved. And he decided that Mr. Stella was right. “I had been thinking about using plain units of material anyway,” he said, “but that absolutely crystallized it.”

He began, in a formulation that became the bedrock of his work, to think of sculpture not as cuts in materials but as cuts in space formed by materials. Or as he also put it, with a Delphic flair that has marked his writing and a large body of word-based work he has made throughout his career, “A thing is a hole in a thing it is not.”

This idea of negative space, of form as crafting space not object is also applicable architecturally. As I have asked elsewhere, is architecture more about producing A personal vision of Architectural space or A space designed for its use? “Crafting space”, would suggest a argument for space over form.

I was also intrigued by another notion attributed to Andre.

“Art is about seizing and holding space,” he said. “And it was always easier to do that by putting 144 pieces along the floor than by stacking them up.” (He laughed when it was suggested that, in a sense, his works own the air rights above them.) But the flatness is also quintessentially American; he considers roads, he said, to be ideal sculptures.

One reason this would seem to hold true is because roads are a sort of fundamental line drawing, simple, basic.  They are also a fundamental feature of  our (particularly in America) modern space/place. The Ur-land art-of our day. Engineered, yet just as fundamentally a 2 dimensional line-plane.


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