Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Carl Andre No Longer Making Art

Last week, I finally plunked down the six dollars for the December 5 issue of the New Yorker.  There was no way around the New Yorker's formidable on-line paywall.  I was anxious to read Calvin Tomkin's latest artist profile.  But unlike most of the articles Tomkins has penned over the past 50 years, this was about an artist in his waning days.  

This one wasn't about any ordinary artist.  No, this one was about one of the greatest artists of the past 50 years--certainly in the top 20.  But this is about the only great artist of the past 50 years charged and then acquitted for murder.  This was about 76 year-old Carl Andre. Many have said they were shocked by the feeble looking Andre in overalls looking blankly ahead next to his much younger wife artist Melissa Kretschmer.   The entire article is rather  wistful and melancholic.

The article did announce that Dia:Beacon would be hosting a major Andre retrospective curated by Dia director Phillippe Vergne and Yasmil Raymond in the Spring of 2013.  But the big takeaways were that Andre's mind is slipping and then the most astonishing of all was the revelation that "(Kretschmer) told me that Andre is no longer making art. Two years ago, he was hospitalized after a fall on the street, she said, and he was having short-term memory problems."  The art press has been slow to focus on the fact that it appears as though Carl Andre's career as a maker of new sculpture is over.  But Tomkins never broaches the subject again in the article.  

Yes, the Mendieta controversy is revisited, but no new information comes out.  He may have been acquitted but he became a pariah in the United States art world though Europe and Paula Cooper stuck with him and have allowed his prices to remain very strong.   And though Andre is very reliant on his wife, Tomkins does describe this nugget which will send Andre haters into paroxysms of righteousness:
"Now and then, when she (Kretschmer) offered an opinion, he would correct her irritably." 

For those of us who know Andre only through his work,  the 2013 retrospective is something to look forward to.  Andre's greatness lay in how such a radically simple gesture (his flat carpets of metal) could transform a space so fundamentally.  But more than that  how he could create objects of such elegance and intimacy with the materials of the industrial age.  The article has some very flattering statements about Andre's historical importance provided by both Tomkins and Richard Serra:  "(Andre) was more radical and more influential than anything being done by Judd, Morris, or Flavin."  And Serra says simply, "Carl was an enormous influence on me.  He changed the history of sculpture."

I remember in the early 90s, how odd it was to see Andre's work in Julian Pretto's micro-galleries in the West Village.   But his work seemed even more alluring in these spaces--Andre created small corner works which were made of tin.  They were like Ghiradelli chocolate wafers.  

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