Born in 1935 in Massachusetts, Carl Andre studied at Philips Academy in Andover from 1951 to 1953. In the 1960s, Andre modernized sculpture, transforming traditional, three-dimensional sculpture into flat sculpture on the ground. Andre’s work was innovative because he did not sculpt out of material, but rather used the material to sculpt the environment. These works are laid on the ground in a way that allows observers to walk on them and see them from above.
Andre’s sculpture is at the center of the Mnuchin Gallery’s latest exhibit, Carl Andre in His Time. Featuring art from minimalist artists of the 1960s, this two-story gallery shows the beauty of minimalist sculpture. It features art by Carl Andre, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, and Frank Stella. The exhibit runs concurrently with Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, which is on display at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
Each room at the Mnuchin Gallery features a combination of artwork on walls, flat on the floor, and three-dimensional on the floor. Many of the pieces are perfect geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, or triangles. This is an important element of the gallery’s pieces, as their rigidity is also represented by the exhibit’s organization. Nothing is crowded, but rather all of the pieces are organized very neatly and precisely.
One piece, ‘Lead-Zinc Plain,’ shows 36 square units of (appropriately) lead and zinc. It is situated on the ground, and the pieces are not bonded together. It is a prime example of Andre’s style: he used everyday mass-produced items to create his sculpture. Rather than perfecting every tile, he allows for small imperfections. The imperfections make this piece impressive.
Another work, ’32-Part Reciprocal Invention,’ shows 16 rods in two columns which form a third column that is consistently the same width, though the sizes of the rods are reciprocals. Thus, the rods match perfectly with those in the parallel column, with space in between, to keep the larger column the same width. In some rows, the rods match up with each other, but in others they are staggered. This incredibly logical piece shows one way to make seemingly simple objects more complex.
In Andre’s three dimensional sculpture ‘Crux,’ there are 13 western red cedar timbers which come together to form a cross. The piece is large (36 x 84 x 84 inches), and it stands proudly among the floor sculptures. As in his other pieces, the material is natural and shows beauty in that way.
While the gallery dedicated this exhibition to Carl Andre, the other works from different artists are also incredibly appealing and breathtaking. Sol LeWitt’s ‘Wall Drawing, #69,’ is an incredible (you guessed it) wall drawing. Nothing is measured or geometric in this piece, but rather it is made up of curved and uneven lines drawn in colored pencil. The vibrant colors stand out from the white wall, and the viewer is immediately drawn into the complexity of the wall.
Donald Judd’s ‘Untitled (Bernstein 78-70)’ features different units that look like floating shelves. They are stainless steel and blue Plexiglas, which is very vibrant. They are very carefully mounted onto the wall, and each unit is perfectly aligned with the others. Each piece is identical, and it is an interesting experience to stare at this piece, which shows how art can be beautiful even when the artist uses simple material.
Carl Andre’s exhibit is a must-see for all art enthusiasts. It will be open from September 9, 2015, to December 5, 2015.
Mnuchin Gallery, 45 East 78th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 861 0020
By Sean Scarisbrick
Sean is a graduate student at Hunter College, where he studies Middle Eastern history. He is particularly interested in cultural history and language’s contribution to culture. He loves Shakespeare, Malala Yousafzai, Game of Thrones, foreign languages (Arabic, Spanish, and French), and Arabic street art.