Thursday, 20 August 2009


It is thirty-seven years since Tate Gallery acquired artist Carl André’s Equivalent VIII. This installation comprises one hundred and twenty fire bricks arranged in two layers in a six-by-ten rectangle. When first exhibited at Tate Gallery in 1976, now Tate Britain, the piece drew much criticism from the press because of the perception that taxpayers’ money had been spent on paying an inflated price for a collection of bricks. (Wikipedia)

Ah, what a genius is André, what a visionary! His installation went on display in a quiet interval in British history, that pause before the buying and selling of brick and mortar became the passion, the all-time obsession of the paying public. Interestingly, the media reaction to Equivalent VIII was also symptomatic of things to come. It is only taxpayers’ money that must never be spent on building and its raw materials, their own built patches never drawing quite enough cash from private buyers.

But who is Carl André? He was born in Massachusetts in 1935 and studied art at Phillips Academy, Andover. Later, he was to work with Constantin Brancusi and Frank Stella. From 1960 to 1964 André worked as freight brakeman and conductor in New Jersey, an experience that was to influence both his art and personality. For a number of years he concentrated on writing, most notably his concrete poetry, in which the typographical arrangement of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the elements of the poem; meaning of words, rhyme, rhythm, and so on.

In 1965 he had his first exhibition of minimalist sculpting; a term applied to various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where work is stripped down to its most fundamental features. (Wikipedia) If any artist alive knows about fundamental features, it is certainly Carl André.

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