“My ambition as an artist is to be the ‘Turner of matter’. As Turner severed colour from depiction, so I attempt to sever matter from depiction.”
Carl Andre: Mass & Matter exhibition at Turner Contemporary brings together eight sculptures made between 1967 and 1983, alongside a collection of his typed poems from the same period.
At the heart of the exhibition is a concern with materials, which for Andre has always meant the common materials of everyday production – wood, bricks and metals such as aluminium, copper, steel, magnesium and lead. Andre selects standard, commercially available units of these materials for his sculptural arrangements without altering them.
Andre is famous for his sculptures made of ordinary industrial materials which are arranged directly on the floor in simple linear arrangements or grids. By reducing sculpture to its most basic elements and re-orientating it from the vertical to the horizontal plane, Andre helped to redefine the possibilities of sculpture for a whole generation of artists.
Like other artists associated with Minimalism, Carl Andre is concerned with the character of different materials. He describes wood as ‘the mother of matter’. Bricks are as valid materials for making art for Andre as oil paint or plaster. He considers bricklayers to be ‘people of fine craft’.
Andre’s poetry is based on a similar process of reduction. Individual words and phrases are arranged on the page according to certain criteria, isolated and freed from all grammar. His poems are as concerned with the visual appearance of words on a page as with the content of the language itself. Although some of his earliest poems were handwritten, most of Andre’s text works from the late 1960s were produced on a manual typewriter, which automatically sets letters down in grid-like rows and columns analogous.