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Cuts: Carl Andre Texts 1959-2004

by James Meyer, Ed.
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005
352 pp., illus. Trade, $45.00
ISBN: 0-262-01215-4.

Reviewed by Alise Piebalga

Carl Andre is, arguably, one of the most discussed and re-interpreted artist of modern times. His Equivalent VIII, acquired by the Tate for 4000 pounds, is still a vital building-block in discussions on the role of art and public spending. Cuts, a compilation of interviews, texts, letters, and poems authored by Carl Andre and edited by James Meyer offers a unique opportunity to gain a much more accurate, first-hand impression of the artist, his sculptural installations and poetry.

The book is divided alphabetically into subject headings, titles ranging from Art, Capitalism, Painting, and Poetry to Marcel Duchamp, Frank Stella, and artist’s home town of Quincy. Each subject heading contains various types of texts: interviews, letters, poetry and short epigrams, and maxims. The nature of these texts, however, being private correspondences, published and unpublished letters and statements, means that the tone of the book is never assuming or ostentatious; instead, it evokes reflection and meditation forming an in-official conversation with the reader. The light-hearted tone is re-affirmed with the inclusion of short epigrams along with some witty letters to individuals and publishers.

The texts have been laid out with consideration: The more intellectually challenging ones, such as the correspondences between Carl Andre and his close friend and filmmaker Hollis Frampton, for example ‘On Sculpture and Consecutive Matters’ and ‘On a Journey to Philadelphia and Other Consecutive Matters,’ the particular focus of the latter were Marcel Duchamp and his Large Glass and Auguste Rodin’s Gate of Hell, are interconnected with short and concise statements on the nature of art, particularly sculpture and literature. Notably evocative are the sections on Quincy, the artist’s home town, where Andre describes his first inspirations drawn from the dock yard and the quarry and his reflections on life as an artist in New York and friendships with Hollis Frampton and the famous painter Frank Stella. Despite Andre’s own distrust of photographs, all of the sections of this book are supported with images of his work, himself, and the surroundings discussed.

Andre’s planar poetry, arrangements, and re-arrangements of letters and words in various patterns, weaves throughout the book. It is remarkable on how many levels these poems can be enjoyed; they have the aesthetics of a complex mathematical problem and the gravitational pull of a word game, as each letter gains its own autonomy and participates as an essential but independent particle within the pattern. The inclusion of these literary works and discussions on poetry not only illustrates the multidimensionality, commitment and thoroughness of Carl Andre’s creative output but also helps to complete and round off the perception of the artist and his sculptural contributions to the world of art.

Cuts, texts by Carl Andre between 1959-2004, is more than just an account of one artist’s artistic practice; it is an insight into an act of creation, from the first inspirations to late night discussions and tough interviews. It lays bare the fallacy of an artist as an inspired genius myth and exposes the intellectual and physical work, the need for persistence and in-depth knowledge about the works of others. This compilation of interviews, correspondences, reflections, and poems is an intimate introduction to the artist, his woks, and the art world in general.



Updated 1st February 2006

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