Tag Archives: Carl Andre

Buildings and Blocks: The Bechers, LeWitt, and Andre at Paula Cooper

Bernd and Hilla Becher: In Dialogue with Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt, at Paula Cooper, 534 W. 21st St., through May 5, 2018.

The Bechers (German; he, d. 2007; she, d. 2015) worked together as one compositional and conceptual photographic eye for nearly fifty years.  Picking up on the artistic objectivity of August Sander before WWII in his encyclopedic images of human subjects, they turned to architecture, mainly industrial.  Each geometric-based structure is seen/shot from several viewpoints and arranged in flattened grids—a kind of reverse Cubist pictorial methodology.  As segmented presentations they bear close relation to the serial arrangements of Minimalism, furthered by a purposeful monochrome sans shadows that sustains focus on each subject-as-such.  Like Minimalist sculpture as well, they speak to the twentieth-century constructed environment for posterity, albeit through taxonomic-like, full-bodied representations.

Whereas, those now considered seminal Minimalists spoke through structural “excerpts”—a la LeWitt, (American, d. 2007) who then expanded them in 2D and 3D formats through formulaic repetitions increasingly for decades.  It helps to know about this aspect of his oeuvre to appreciate the elemental works here, but also to take reciprocal cues from the backdrop of Bechers, as was the curatorial plan.  Thus, LeWitt’s anti-volumetric, somewhat quizzical and idiosyncratic objects (to adapt Donald Judd’s enduring discourse, “Specific Objects,” 1965) also imply DNA-like building blocks.

Andre (b. 1935), a cohort of LeWitt in New York-based Minimalism’s 1970s heyday, is represented here by thick, square floor structures of rough-hewn wood beams—hollow boxes or frames, post-millennial in date but stubbornly consistent with the bulk (literally and figuratively) of his oeuvre.  Imposing in their deliberate simplicity, they are more bounded presences than LeWitt’s linear “links.” For the less informed, this juxtaposition is effective in conveying the potential diversity within Minimalist aesthetics, analogical and extending to the Becher material.  For a priori fans like myself, the stripped, ironic elegance associated with  all parties involved will be reaffirmed.  Make sure to take in the gallery’s expansive, bare-bones beam and I-bar ceiling to experience the full implications of the display.

Works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Carl Andre, and Sol Lewitt installed at the Paula Cooper Gallery (4/17/18).

 

 

Sculpture: Minimalism (Sperone Westwater) / Maximalism (Nancy Rubins at Gagosian)

“Sculpture”; Sperone Westwater (Bowery), through August 15.

“Nancy Rubins: Our Friend Fluid Metal”; Gagosian (21st Street), through September 15.

If Koons’s flawless shine fetish has fascinated the masses and cognoscenti alike (for the most part), dominating art-social media-NYC this summer in an endless flood of fun-house selfies, a mirror ball of another ilk—namely an equally gleaming, though pockmarked moon by Not Vital, has landed at Sperone Westwater.

Not Vital, "Moon" (2011; stainless steel)
Not Vital, “Moon” (2011; stainless steel) [click to enlarge]
Gazing at this fallen celestial orb feels very different than clowning into a Koons, although, it compels, likewise, to take that side-long self-glance, if not a money shot of our narcissism. The work rests in a sublime installation on the third floor of SW’s Gagosian-challenging new-ish Bowery HQ; which also includes a vermilion-lacquered, half-stairway to … oblivion, or a fourth dimension behind the wall, by Wolfgang Laib (2002), a ritualistic circle of puzzle-piece rock fragments by walking artist extraordinaire, Richard Long, and a heavy wood abstraction in the shape of an inverted tau, which also suggests an altar, by Carle Andre (pace Andre’s distaste for content association—true, as well, it couldn’t be more formally Minimal).

Third fl. installation view, Sperone Westerwater; with "Moon," a R. Long (1996; granite) and a Carl Andre (1992; cedar timbers)
Third floor at  Sperone Westerwater (partial view); with “Moon,” a R. Long (1996; granite) and a Carl Andre (1992; cedar timbers)

Each floor of this group show has similarly intriguing juxtapositions as well as engaging specific works by an inter-generational, international roster; with more mirroring on the ground floor in the proto-disco assemblages (one, kinetic) of Heinz Mack, c. 1960.

Heinz Mack, "Kleiner Stelenwald" (1960; brass, with motor)
Heinz Mack, “Kleiner Stelenwald” (1960; brass, with motor)

Back then, the reflective surface was just taking off in pop culture and contemporary art, après Brancusi (prominent in works by many emerging NY-based artists at the time, including R. Smithson, R. Morris, Y. Kusama, L. Samaras).

***

Nancy Rubins was a memorable hit at the 1995 Whitney Biennial with a floating, twerked and bound mattress installation featuring creamy supermarket cakes smushed into the crevices, evoking a post-industrial Tiepolo. (Digression: bed and mattress show, dedicated to R. Rauschenberg’s famous MoMA Bed 1955, with Rubins, Guillermo Kuitca, Tracy Emin, Sarah Lucas, Pepon Ossorio . . . ?)*  In the interim, Rubins got into heavy-metal assemblages that also defied gravity, with the origins of the fragment components more and less discernible—rambunctious off-spring of later Frank Stellas. Twenty years hence, the three works currently on view at Gagosian are again bouncing off the ceiling, as well as walls and floor—dense clouds of recycled junk (Shinique Smith is one heir), including a proliferation of defunct, old-school springing playground or low-rent carnival rides in the form of sea-foamy-tinted, kitschy-toy, zoomorphic cross-breeds.

Nancy Rubins, at Gagosian Gallery, 522 W. 21st St., summer 2014
Nancy Rubins, at Gagosian Gallery, 522 W. 21st St., summer 2014

. . .  Abandoned, twister-blown, small-town toddler amusement park gracefully re-coagulated, tumbles and hovers into the white cube.

Nancy Rubins, detail
Nancy Rubins, detail

*Re: “bed show”; update (11/1/15): I was unaware,  when I posted this, of the comprehensive exhibition at 21er Haus, Vienna, “Sleepless: The Bed in History and Contemporary Art,” (Jan.-June 2015), including several of these artists.