“Carl Andre. Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010” showing in Madrid until end of September

The MNCARS -Reina Sofía Museum of Contemporary Arts- is holding a retrospective on the American sculptor and multi-talented artist Carl Andre. The contents of this vast exhibition are displayed in two venues, open until September 28 and October 8, 2015.

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

 

Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010, the first retrospective on the artist to be held in Spain, reviews his fifty years of artistic production, in the course of which he created over two thousand sculptures and an equal number of poems, plus dozens of assemblages that are hard to classify, and hundreds of postcards.

Organized along a loose chronology to construct different modes of looking, the exhibition unfolds over three sections. The first, consisting of sculpture, is mostly on display at the Palacio de Velázquez, while the others can be seen at the Sabatini Building. One brings together his unclassifiable productions, ranging from his ephemera to the enigmatic assemblages known as Dada Forgeries, which establish an irreverent dialogue with Marcel Duchamp, while the third and final section is devoted to visual poetry.

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

 

Carl Andre (Quincy, Massachusetts, 1935), sculptor and poet, is one of the most outstanding and complex figures in Minimal Art, an artistic movement that emerged in the early sixties in the United States. From a reductionist stance, the minimalists attempted to explore the essence of the object by employing industrial materials and processes that would allow serial reproduction, eliminating every subjective trace so that the artwork would refer exclusively to itself.

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Velázquez Palace © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores


 

Carl Andre

 

The beginnings of this artist, who radically redefined the field of sculpture, were marked by his friendships with the filmmaker Hollis Frampton and the painterFrank Stella, and by his early discovery of the sculpture of Constantin Brancusi and thepoetics of Ezra Pound. With unaltered industrial materials and an irreverent approach to language, he proposed a revolutionary concept of composition involving the use of minimal units and a particular exploration of space. Traceable in his career are some of the most influential of the trends that followed the path of minimalism, from visual poetry to Land Art or conceptual art.

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

 

Upon arriving in New York City in 1957, after an erratic artistic education lasting several years, Carl Andre found himself able to develop his creativity in sculpture, drawing and experimental writing. The abundant tabletop geometric constructions of his first period were made primarily from wood, but he soon identified the limitations of his own craftsmanship and became intrigued by the inherent properties of manufactured materials—their form, weight, and surface. In a span of six years, from 1958 through 1964, Andre would vacate the residues of the artist’s hand from his sculptures, which before this time he had made by chiseling and cutting with power tools to render slender pillars from single planks or stacks that rise from the ground to his own height. He even radicalized his gesture of imbuing sculpture with horizontality to the point of laying it flat on the ground. At the same time, accompanied by his avid intellect, a deep affection for poetry, and commitment to leftist politics, Andre would sharpen his questions and clarify his understanding of sculpture by making the typewriter his studio.

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

 

In the 1960s, he generated over thirteen hundred pages of poems, in a monumental reflection that called attention to the subtle intertwining of materials and the English language. In his own words: “Art is not only the investment of creative energy, but the sharpening of the critical faculties. . . . I think art is truly an open set. There are no ideal forms to strive for nor hierarchies to obtain to. Things have qualities. Perceive the qualities.”

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

 

At the outset of Andre’s explorations with both writing and sculpting, the question became not whether scavenging from the streets for materials or extracting words from a book enacted a new and copious stance for originality, or whether the anonymity of the machine-made units or the typewritten text accounted for the juncture of instrument and instinct. It was rather that through thinking about the materiality of sculpting and writing, the form of language and matter, the artist operates within a historical development, providentially decodes and proposes a reading of present conditions, and ultimately shifts art into a realm of experience. The discovery of this examination proved to be a defining event in Andre’s unorthodox probing with sculpture and poetry and led him to devise a notion of “place” that is charged with utopian energy and an invigorating understanding of art as a viewpoint into reality. It is the conjunction of these two modes of creation, the placement of materials and words, that is the root of Andre’s reciprocal relationship to place, where we may recognize our presence and “perceive the qualities.”

 

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

Carl Andre, Sculpture as place. Sabatini Building © Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores


 

Practical Information

 

Carl Andre. Sculpture as place, 1958 – 2010
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Part I (sculpture)
5 May to 12 October 2015

Palacio de Velázquez
Parque del Retiro, Madrid

Parts II and III (drawings and ephemera)
6 May to 28 September 2015

Sabatini Building
Santa Isabel, 52, Madrid

 


 

Exhibition info via MNCARS
Photos courtesy of MNCARS. Authors quoted.