Frank Badur on Carl Andre


The “disparity of the similar“ (adapted from Viktor Shklovsky) that is so significant for Carl Andre’s complex body of work is also evident in these three small red and black panels. It is quite possible that a quick, fleeting glance will capture three identical images – yet are they identical in size and color? As with Carl Andre’s spatial floor sculptures, this two-dimensional triptych calls for an active, differentiating viewer who takes time for a close-up inspection. Only through an intensive comparison do the three pieces reveal their individuality. The probing eye moves across three dissimilar, rising diagonals – organic separations between the red and black forms. The color balance successively favors the black; irregular brush strokes and restrained textures reference an intuitive creative act. These intimate panels remind me of early Suprematist paintings, small abstract icons whose spiritual energy and visual poetry hold the viewer enraptured.

In 1962, during a conversation with Hollis Frampton, Carl Andre said: The innovation in twentieth-century Western painting, Constructivism, provides the suggestion of an aesthetic which could be the basis for a kind of plastic poetry which retained the qualities of both poetry and painting. I am experimenting toward that end, anyway.

When looking at the early work of Carl Andre, which unfortunately hardly exists anymore, these three red and black panels must be considered almost the only examples of his drawing. I sense in these works on paper a groping for three-dimensionality. They seem to reveal the longing for a tactile quality – a look at his red and ochre painted wood sculpture Hourglass of 1962 seems to verify this assumption.

Translation by Jörg W. Ludwig

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