CARL ANDRE (1935 -), his artist / sculptor quotes on minimalist sculpture art + biography facts
Most of Andre's quotes and statements here collected, are taken from Andre’s conversation with the public in 1969 and from a few interviews. Carl Andre is famous for the many ‘floor pieces’ - flat sculptures located on the ground - he made in different materials like wood, stone or metals, because Andre as sculptor loves to create in the basic materials. Andre was an important sculptor in American Minimalism art, like Donald Judd, but much more the experienced craftsman as well, A close artist friend of Carl Andre was the famous American painter and later also sculptor Frank Stella. It was Stella who encouraged Andre to focus on sculpture art, read his quotes. At the bottom you find more biography facts about Carl Andre and his contribution to American Minimalism, with some useful art links; - editor: Fons Heijnsbroek
Carl Andre: 'Blocks of wood stacked', sculpture 1977
Carl Andre, his artist quotes and art statements on Minimalism sculpture
- The wood was better before I cut it, than after. I did not improve it in any way. (remark after 1959, in Andre’s early artist life when he made his sculpture ‘Last Ladder’, fh)
- There should be no one place or even a group of places where you should be. (1969, viewing his own art and life, fh)
- (Frank) Stella is not interested in expression or sensitivity. He is interested in the necessity of painting… … His stripes are the paths of brush on canvas. These path leads only into painting. (1959)
- Well sure, my sculptures are floor pieces. Each one, like any area on the surface of the earth, supports a column of air that weighs – what is it? – 14.7 pounds per square inch. So in a sense, that might represent a column. It’s not an idea, it’s a sense of something you know, a demarked place. Somehow I think I always thought of it going that way, rather than an idea of a narrowing triangle going to the centre of the earth…. …I have nothing to do with conceptual art. I’m not interested in ideas. If I were interested in ideas, I’d be in a field where what we think in is ideas… …I don’t really know what an idea is. One thing for me is that if I can frame something in language, I would never make art out of it. I make art out of things which cannot be framed in any other way. (December 1969, talking with the audience)
- I like the description ‘physical art’. I think maybe art emerged when man first began to distinguish himself from nature. Art is part of himself, which he returns perhaps as an homage to the nature which he left. Of course, he never left nature. The rise of consciousness, perhaps… …The main thing we believe, that separated us from not only animals but from the stones, is the fact that we are not stones, that we are not dogs. Now that is an assumption, perhaps it’s a false assumption. But anyway, somehow I think one of the greatest functions of art is that man can feed back to his own consciousness through the knowledge that he is not a stone or not a dog. (December 1969, talking with audience)
- As I have said many times, for me an artist is a person who says he’s an artist, and an artwork is what an artist says is an artwork. Although for myself, I am not interested in ideas as the burden of art… …the important thing about art is how it stimulates us. I think the more you are stimulated by more different kinds of art, the more demanding you’re going to become on the level of your stimulation. The key to art is experience of it and proximity to it.
- It comes to me as a desire to have something in the world. And again to quote Blake, “It is better to murder an infant in the cradle than to nurse an ungratified desire.”… …You might say that a creative person is a person who simply has a desire to have something, to add something to the world that’s not there yet, and goes about arranging fort that to happen… …when you desire a work of art and make it, you’ve added to the stock of art in the world. Artists are one of the people who can do that: add to the stock of things.
- The Duchamp thing is played both ways. The ‘Urinal’ (a famous ‘readymade’ art work of Duchamp, fh) signed R. Mutt, is played as an art object, and then as the opposite of a legitimate art object. And it vacillates back and forth. Well perhaps that is a nice thing, but I don’t know. I find Duchampianism a bore. It’s very adolescent. I was very much excited by it when I was a teenager… …My tradition is quite different. My conscious tradition is through Brancusi, (one of the first French sculptors creating abstract sculpture art, fh), and Brancusi just strikes me as an infinitely wiser and infinitely more talented, an infinitely stronger figure than Duchamp. I think I could have done my work if Duchamp had not lived. I could not have done my work if Brancusi had not lived.
- I’m an anti-Platonist, so I wouldn’t say that stock was a stock of ideas or certainly not an ideal form, because I don’t believe there is something out there, except out there. There’s something in here and there’s something out there, and there’s mediation between the two.
- A work will be treated as art within a certain circle – that is, within the circle of let’s say ten thousand people. There are about ten thousand in the world today who are prepared to take it on face value if you present anything to them as art, they deal with it straight on as art and tell you whether it stimulates them, moves them, or not. Some of them might even buy it… …Anyway, it seems to me that within that ring of ten thousand, fortunately, that sincerity issue (is something art or not, fh) is over. The reason why that issue failed is that it became obvious no one would live a life of art, a life of poverty, just to pull somebody’s legs. In other words, there were compensating sacrifices for what people did.
- People keep on wanting fetish figures, and things like that are very popular. That’s pop art. There was an enormous resistance to Abstract Expressionism and there still is to that school, which is not dead at all. But pop art came as a reaction to that because kids can’t paint abstract expressionism unless they’re under five year of age. Because it really is tremendously hard work and it’s very challenging. But the point is, people love an immediately recognizable word – if you put a word in anything, they lie it… …I am not interested in culture at all. Once a work of art has gotten into the culture, its dead as far as I’m concerned. I think there is a difference between art and culture. Or as the sage once said, “Art is what we do; culture is what is done to us.
- Fortunately, the less you have to rely on art materials – what are considered classic art materials which are all overpriced anyway – the more you can rely on materials at large in the culture and the more you should rely on them. The more free you are because you’re not tied down to a higher-priced set of materials. That’s the advantage of getting out in to the streets. I find that work I’m interested in now is made out of things which have been discarded by people – metals and things which I find in vacant lots. I don’t want all of it. I want only certain kinds for certain purposes. But this is of interest to me now, just so I won’t get into a trap where I have to work and continue with more and more expensive materials.
- I mean artists like Joseph Beuys, who is really a tough, strong artist. B E U Y S. He’s been working in Germany for years. He doesn’t bother with the burden of ideas. What he desires to do is fill your house with margarine. Let you live encased in fat, die encased in fat. He would take three hundred pounds of margarine and put it exactly where Pat Kelly is now, and then leave it there. That’s sort of the tenor of his work.
- I think it’s called Arte Povera. But it doesn’t mean “poor art”. It means the art which you would do out there if you were nobody at all. Aspects of this are street art and so forth. Earthworks interest me to the single extent that it means a great extension of the possibilities of materials. Dirt is a wonderful material to make things out of. And mud and rocks and things like this…
- I want to warn against being seduced by technology. I don’t think that the really interesting materials to use are those miracle plastics and miracle alloys or fiber composites or anything like that. The real miracle materials are the ones which have been abandoned by modern technology. Beautiful land and things like that. I am utterly disenchanted with technology, because the super uses of technology are the ones being used in Vietnam and that, to me, is not beautiful…. …I don’t say no to the new technology, I don’t say no to lasers, I don’t say no to advanced plastics. The trouble is, people over and over again use new materials, new materials for old purposes. I’m not interested in that. I think by using old materials you’ve got to find new purposes. In a way, what is abandoned is more of a challenge than what has just been discovered.
- Yes, that’s one of the horrors of the age (wood, grain, formica, fh). There’s a name for that. It’s skeuomorphic structure, a curiosity that occurs in every culture. A skeuomorph is a shadow form. The first example I ever heard described was in Kretan clay pots, at the time when early Cretans had perfected the use of clay. They had been hunters and gatherers and they had woven baskets from reeds and twigs. As they become agriculturally oriented and had settled in communities, they found it useful to have clay pots instead of wicker ones, mostly so they could cook with them. Agriculture means cooking, as Lévi-Strauss (a famous French anthropologist in those days, fh) has pointed out. So they made clay pots but they carefully inscribed the woven pattern on the pot. That’s skeuomorph. It’s a shadow form. That’s exactly an example of skeuomorph, the wood grain of Formica. Culture is full of skeuomorph things and so is art. I’m not interested in them, I’d much rather reverse the process. Pop art is eminently skeuomorph.
- I’ve been educated in some pretty lively barrooms, like the Cedar Bar in New York. And I went to high school with Frank Stella and when he got out of college he went to New York and started painting… …I was working with sculpture in a kind of dilatory way, and he said to come up and work in his tiny loft when he wasn’t there. At the same time I sort of dabbled in a little bit of painting, and a kind of confusion. I was an eye, ear, nose, and throat person too… …One day Frank Stella just said to me, “Look, if you paint another painting I’m going to cut off your hands.” I asked, “Can’t I become a good painter?” Frank said, “No, because you are a good sculptor now.” That’s really my formal education… …the company of artists is the great education. We educate each other. I’ve learned from older, wiser people by the old Greek method of sitting down and drinking with them. And that’s how I received my education.
- In the years when I was trying to get my work shown and accepted and so forth, I went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad and that was my formal art school. You can learn a hell of a lot about sculpture, working in a railroad. The thing about getting a job outside of art is the fact that you can finds out whole areas of materials. I don’t mean new ones. I mean old ones like scrap iron. A railroad is essentially a big collection of scrap iron, and that’s why it’s great. You get out and beyond the art confine.
- So I had carved one face with hollows curving in-out, in-out, very simple really. I set the timber upright and Frank Stella came in (it was Stella’s loft where Carl Andre was sculpting then, fh) and came over and looked at the chiselling and said it looked good. He turned around to the back of the piece which was uncut – the backside of the timber – and he said, you know that’s sculpture too. I supposed what he meant to say was, that cutting was a good idea and the idea of not cutting was good too. But you know, I thought to myself, yes the uncut side is really much better than the cut side. The form of the timber was by no way improved by my cutting into it. From that time, I began to think that the next timbers I get I’m not going to cut. I’m going to combine the timbers; I’m going to use them as cuts in space. I began to look for what I call particles – that is, units which are identical in shape – and finding ways to combine these particles by properties of the individual particles. That is, no gluing and no nailing and no joining.
- Magnets have an inherent quality that they can adhere to each other, so there are certain things you can do with magnets that you can’t do with non-magnetic material. There are certain characteristic things you can do with very heavy things you can’t do with very light things. By that, I mean it seems to me that very light things and very small things have a different characteristic way that they should be arranged, and big heavy things have a different characteristic way they should be arranged. That’s subjective. I can’t prove that to you. So my work is essentially combining particles – but again, combining particles according to the properties of individual particles, not imposing properties on the particles. These particles, of course, always work in a gravitational space and meet the plane of resistance that you always meet, as long as you aren’t the centre of the earth.
- Talking about the particles, I know I don’t have any special theory of particles. It’s just the way it came out and that’s the way I want to do it. Also, there are advantages to particles: you can’t break them they don’t break apart. They don’t have any rigid connections; there are no rigid connections to break. The particles are always shifting around a little bit and you have to kick them back into shape. It’s like tuning a piano every once in a while. I like the idea of something being permanent by being non-rigid, being absolutely non-rigid but not having a rigid form that can be broken. But a theory of particles, I don’t know. Maybe late one night after a few drinks I explained to Lucy Lippard a theory of particles. I’m sure I didn’t remember the next day.
Carl Andre, biography facts of the famous sculptor, on his life and American Minimalism
Carl Andre is a famous American artist creating modern abstract Minimal Art in basic materials. He studied art at Phillips Academy in Andover and became there friends with Hollis Frampton who would later influence Andre's radical approach to sculpture through their conversations about art and through introductions to other artists. Andre served in the U.S. Army in North Carolina 1955-56 and moved to New York City in 1956. While in New York, Frampton introduced Andre to Constantin Brâncusi through whom Andre became re-acquainted with a former classmate from Phillips Academy, Frank Stella, in 1958. Andre shared studio space with Stella from 1958 through 1960.
Andre is a sculptor who neither carves into substances, nor models forms. His work involves the positioning of raw materials - such as bricks, blocks, ingots, or plates. He uses no fixatives to hold them in place. Andre has suggested that his procedure for building up a sculpture from small, regularly-shaped units is based on "the principle of masonry construction" - like stacking up bricks to build a wall. Andre claims that his sculpture is an exploration of the properties of matter, and for this reason he has called himself a "matterist." Some people have seen his art as "concept based," as though each piece is merely the realization of an idea. But for Carl Andre, this is mistaken: the characteristics of every unit of material he selects, and the arrangement and position of the sculpture in its environment, forms the substance of his art.
Since the mid-1960s the underlying premises of Andre's art have remained practically unchanged, inasmuch as the procedure for making the work has not altered. This has meant that Andre's work tends to display a range of distinct characteristics which make it instantly recognizable. For instance, much of his mature sculpture is extremely low-lying, undermining all traditional associations about sculpture's relation to the upright human body. When you stand in front of one of Andre's metal floor-based works, there is no form which "faces" you. Instead you are often permitted to walk over his metal sculptures, and stand in the space where sculptural substance usually resides. Because his sculpture art is so low-lying and always presented on the ground ('floor pieces'), his work can often seem extremely unobtrusive. This is a quality which Andre has also cultivated. He has never been interested in making vast, monumental works which dwarf the viewer. Instead, Andre has often said that he likes to make sculptures which you can be in the same room with, but ignore if you choose to.
In 1965 he had his first public exhibition of work in the "Shape and Structure" show curated by Henry Geldzahler at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Andre's 'controversial' "Lever" was included in the seminal 1966 show at the Jewish Museum in New York entitled Primary Structures. In 1969 Andre helped organize the Art Workers Coalition.
Carl Andre: art links for more information and biography facts