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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cut to the chase

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2005 at 12:00 AM

CUTS, a book of writings by minimalist Carl Andre, is as laconic as the floor-bound reductive sculptures the artist creates. Totaling about 250 pages of Andre texts and covering the period from 1959 through 2004, these “cuts” (short-length rather than feature-length writings) include artist statements, letters, postcards, epigrams, poems and even lengthier dialogues and interviews. Augmented with extensive notes, a lengthy bibliography and black-and-white illustrations of signal Andre works (including his long ago disassembled “Prime Terrain,” Detroit, 1976), this is now the primary, from-the-horse’s-mouth text on the artist. Such books are invaluable for the art historian, documenting ideas in gestation and formation, and for the general art reader in revealing something of the persona of the artist. This book, edited and with an introduction by formidable art historian James Meyer, is the latest from MIT Press’ laudable Writing on Art series, now some two-dozen books strong.

Andre is known for sculptures assembled of identical, constituent parts — whether steel plates or red cedar timbers — and his writings are no different; the 1964 “Essay on Sculpture” is such concrete words as arc, bridge, ditch, keg, log, rib, stair, urn. And his “Preface to My Work Itself,” from 1967, reads “in, is, my, of, art, the, into,/ made, same, this, work, parts,/ piled, piles, broken, pieces,/ stacks, clastic, stacked,/ identical, interchangeable.” As for his no-less-pithy sentence formulations, the book includes a quote from Andre in 1966 about his sculpture: “All I’m doing is putting Brancusi’s ‘Endless Column’ on the ground instead of in the sky. Most sculpture is priapic with the male organ in the air. In my work Priapus is down on the floor. The engaged position is to run along the earth.”

Dennis Alan Nawrocki is a freelance writer. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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