Artist of the Month: Carl Andre, Sculpture as Place

Encompassing more than 300 works, ‘Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010’ is the most comprehensive solo show of this major American artist. Works from over five decades will be presented in Berlin, Germany, in approximately 7500 square meters of exhibition space. Among them will be the large floor sculptures for which Andre is renowned, as well as his less well known poems, small sculptures, photographs and works on paper.

Carl Andre (b. 1935, Quincy, Massachusetts) has lastingly redefined our traditional concept of sculpture. Influenced by Constantin Brâncusi and Frank Stella, he forged a fundamentally new understanding of sculpture in the mid-1960s, making him one of the fathers of Minimal Art. For Andre, sculpture can be broken down into the underlying components of form, structure, place, and matter. The artist works with raw and industrial materials: metals (primarily steel, copper, aluminium, and magnesium), rocks and construction materials (such as bricks and limestone), but also wood. Using grid-like structures, geometric patterns and straight lines, the artist sorts and arranges slabs, blocks, ingots, and other units of often factory- finished material to create large-scale sculptures on the floor, without moulding or carving the materials in any way. The visual impact of his sculptures is derived from their simple forms and configurations, the ‘raw- ness’ of their materiality, and their spatial presence. Andre was one of the first artists to create works that were primarily site-specific, declaring: “I’m not a studio artist, I’m a location artist”. The surrounding space is thereby integrated into the work itself, the sculpture, which often can be walked on, becomes “place,” radically redefining the role of the spectator in the process of reception.

The exhibition offers a compelling insight into Carl Andre’s innovative re- thinking of sculpture. At the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the exhibits are presented in an architectural context that could not be more fitting for the artist’s work. Andre’s sculptures will go on show in both the historical railway station concourse and the Rieckhallen, a row of converted storage and freight warehouses. The setting echoes with allusions to the artist’s early years and his time spent working for the railroads as a freight brakeman and train operator; this biographical aside revealingly shedding light on his choice of materials.

In addition to the characteristic floor sculptures, the exhibition also features Andre’s poems, the earliest of which date to the 1950s. ‘Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010’ contains some 150 poems on view in vitrines produced especially by the artist himself. On the one hand, the poetry enters into a relationship with the artist’s texts; on the other hand, it can be seen as a conceptual extension of his sculptural work. For, just as the sculptures relate specifically to the surrounding space, the language configures itself in the exhibition space and the individual words in his poems engage in a spatial relationship with the viewers.

‘Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010’ is organized by Dia Art Foundation in partnership with the Nationalgalerie at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The international tour of the exhibition has been made possible by lead support from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional tour support is provided by the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, the Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Sotheby’s.

Lily Fürstenow

30 June 2016 21:51