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Carl Andre Photo

Carl Andre

American Sculptor

Born: September 16, 1935 - Quincy, Massachusetts
Movements and Styles:
Conceptual Art
"My art springs from my desire to have things in the world which would otherwise never be there."
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Carl Andre Signature
"Art is the exclusion of the unnecessary."
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Carl Andre Signature
"Settle for nothing less than concrete analysis of concrete situations leading to concrete actions."
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Carl Andre Signature
"My art will reflect not necessarily conscious politics but the unanalyzed politics of my life."
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Carl Andre Signature
"...art for art's sake is ridiculous. Art is for the sake of one's needs."
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Carl Andre Signature

Summary of Carl Andre

During the 1960s and 1970s, Carl Andre produced a number of sculptures which are now counted among the most innovative of his generation. Along with figures such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse and Robert Morris, Andre played a central role in defining the nature of Minimalist Art. His most significant contribution was to distance sculpture from processes of carving, modeling, or constructing, and to make works that simply involved sorting and placing. Before him, few had imagined that sculpture could consist of ordinary, factory-finished raw materials, arranged into straightforward configurations and set directly on the ground. In fact, during the 1960s and 1970s many of his low-lying, segmented works came to redefine for a new generation of artists the very nature of sculpture itself.


  • 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 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.
  • Andre insists on installing all new work in person, and his configurations are always carefully attuned to the scale and proportions of their immediate surroundings. However, once installed, his sculptures can be dismantled and reconstructed in other locations without his direct involvement.
  • In 1966, Andre began to describe his work as "sculpture as place," a phrase which alludes both to the fact that his sculptures are produced simply by positioning units on the floor, and to their "place generating" properties. Andre defined "place" as "an area within an environment which has been altered in such a way as to make the general environment more conspicuous."

Biography of Carl Andre

Carl Andre Photo

After school, Andre briefly attended Kenyon College in Ohio, but soon dropped out. He spent the next few months working in Quincy, and between 1955 and 1956 he completed his military service at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. In 1957 he moved to New York with the intent of devoting more time to writing poetry and making art. Living in Lower Manhattan, his circle of friends included Hollis Frampton and the painter Frank Stella, both of whom had also attended Phillips Academy. Frampton introduced Andre to the poetry and essays of Ezra Pound, and it was through Pound that Andre became increasingly interested in the work of the sculptor Constantin Brâncuși. Stimulated by the Romanian modernist, Andre began to experiment with found blocks of wood, sawing and carving them into simple geometric shapes.

Important Art by Carl Andre

Progression of Art

Cedar Piece

Andre recreated this sculpture for the exhibition "Nine Young Artists" at the Hudson River Museum in 1964, and it became the first work of his to be exhibited in public. It consists of equal lengths of standard lumber, into which he has cut simple woodworker's joints so that the sculpture can be slotted together, and then detached for the purposes of portability.

The initial version dates from 1959 when he was in close contact with Stella and was observing Stella complete his paintings using repeated, even brushstrokes. Cedar Piece can be understood as Andre's early attempt to construct sculpture in a similar fashion, also by building up a form from identical units. Andre liked this approach because once he had established the initial premise, he did not have to make any further decisions about the formal composition of the sculpture. In fact, it could be argued that the sculpture composes itself, in that the shape of the St Andrews cross formed by the ends of the beams results from the regular positioning of the joints.

Cedar - Oeffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Switzerland


Equivalent I-VIII

Andre frequently works in series, producing an entire exhibition of sculptures from different arrangements of the same material, as he did for his influential exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York in 1966. Here, each work consists of an equivalent number of white sand-lime bricks (120), although the eight stacks are all arranged according to a different rectangular formation. These eight sculptures are arguably the first sculptures that clearly demonstrate Andre's definition of "sculpture as place." By spreading out the bricks over the floor of the gallery, Andre wanted to generate a sense of extreme horizontality, reminiscent of the level of water. This led him to consider the layer of space between the sculptures to be just as substantial as the bricks themselves, and to emphasise this feature of the sculpture he coined the aphorism: "a thing is a hole in a thing it is not." However, at the end of the exhibition this feature of the installation was lost, because each sculpture was sold individually. Perhaps for this reason Andre remade a version of this work in 1995 called Sand-Lime Instar, in which the entire installation is considered a single sculpture.

Sand-lime bricks - Different Museums and Private Collections


Spill (Scatter Piece)

Andre has always claimed that he looks to the properties of an individual unit or module to determine how it should be combined with others, and since these small plastic counters were too light and too small to be set down one by one like tiles in a mosaic, he decided merely to empty a canvas bag of them over the floor. This work became extremely important for defining "process art", a term which artists and critics used in the late 1960s to distinguish recent works which did not seem to fit with definitions of Minimal art. Minimalism was often associated with sculptures which had rigid, clearly defined geometric forms, and yet artists were increasingly producing objects which appeared simply to have been scattered, or dropped, or were made from materials which had no fixed shape. These sculptures were consequently described in terms of "process," as a way of highlighting that the procedure deployed for the construction of the piece was more important than the finished form.

Plastic blocks and canvas bag - Kimiko and John Powers


144 Aluminum Square

Andre once claimed that the "periodic table of elements is for me what the color spectrum is for a painter," and many of the materials which he uses for his sculptures are pure elements selected from the table. Andre first exhibited 144 Aluminum Square alongside identically-proportioned sculptures in steel (which actually is an iron alloy and not an element) and zinc. Visitors were encouraged to walk over the plates and compare the different physical properties of the three metals.

Aluminum - Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, California


37th Piece of Work

Initially installed in 1970 at the Guggenheim Museum for his first solo exhibition in a public museum in the United States, this sculpture is very much a museum piece. It includes the six most commonly-used metals from the periodic table, each of which is paired with another, according to all thirty-six possible combinations. In total the work consists of 1296 individual plates.

Aluminium, copper, steel, lead, magnesium and zinc - Collection François Pinault, Venezia, Italy


Stone Field Sculpture

This is Andre's only permanent public sculpture: it is sited in downtown Hartford, close to the Wadsworth Atheneum on a narrow, nondescript strip of grass between Center Church and its accompanying burial ground, and Gold Street. The work consists of thirty-six immense boulders, which were dug up at a local gravel pit and had been discarded by the quarry owners. Andre placed the largest stone (which weighs eleven tons) at the apex of the triangular plot, then set down the next two in a row running across the site, then the next three, continuing incrementally up to the eighth row, which is comprised of the smallest stones. While the sculpture is typical of Andre's fascination with sorting and arranging objects, it can also be read as a subtle meditation on the contrast between geological and human time.

Screen print on paper mounted on Sintra with hand painting - City of Hartford, Connecticut

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Influences and Connections

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Content compiled and written by Alistair Rider

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Carl Andre Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Alistair Rider
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 01 Jul 2010. Updated and modified regularly
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