What matters to the reclusive artist, Carl Andre

The private artist reveals elements of his philosophy, poetry and parents in this exclusive exchange
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Poster for exhibition at Wide White Space Gallery in 1968 based on the periodic table and Carl Andre's 37th Piece of Work (1970) at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA which is arranged alphabetically by the element symbol of the metals; aluminium, copper, steel, magnesium, lead and zinc (Al, Cu, Fe, Mg, Pb, Zn)
Poster for exhibition at Wide White Space Gallery in 1968 based on the periodic table and Carl Andre's 37th Piece of Work (1970) at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA which is arranged alphabetically by the element symbol of the metals; aluminium, copper, steel, magnesium, lead and zinc (Al, Cu, Fe, Mg, Pb, Zn)

The American minimalist artist Carl Andre is a mysterious figure, perhaps best known for his grid-based floor sculptures but also for large, outdoor public artworks and small sculptures, poetry and installations. At the heart of Andre’s vision lies a commitment to seeing things as elements: as separable self-contained units. In an exclusive exchange with Phaidon.com, Andre reveals key elements to his work and workings.

 

Q: What's important to you as an artist?

Carl Andre: The attempt to create material conditions I have not experienced before. Matter mattering.

 

Q: What have been key moments or projects in your development as an artist?

CA: I have always been interested in the properties of materials. The Periodic Table of elements is my spectrum. The bins of metals in my father's workshop.

 

Q: Can you describe the importance of materials in feeding your inspiration for sculptures?

CA: My sculptures are specimens of matter.

 

Q: You also write poetry. Can you say a bit about this form of expression in relation to your art?

CA: My mother wrote poetry. My father read poetry to me.

 

Q: As someone who has chosen to remain out of the public spotlight, how important is your art in maintaining your communication with the wider public?

CA: Attention should be paid to my sculptures and poetry, not to me.

 

Q: What does it mean to you to have done this book Carl Andre: Things in Their Elements?

CA: This book has been assembled by others from fragments of my work. It is like a geological core sample.

 

Q: What would you like readers to take away from this book?

CA: I hope that this book will give pleasure to those who read it and perhaps helps to bring my sculpture and poetry to the attention of a wider audience.

 

Carl Andre, thank you.

 

Carl Andre: Things in Their Elements is a thorough and well-illustrated account of this leading minimalist artist.


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