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‘Carl Andre in His Time’ at Mnuchin

New York

'Carl Andre in His Time,' 2015, with works by (from left) Robert Ryman, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin, installation view. ©TOM POWEL IMAGING/COURTESY MNUCHIN GALLERY, NEW YORK

‘Carl Andre in His Time,’ 2015, with works by (from left) Robert Ryman, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin, installation view.

©TOM POWEL IMAGING/COURTESY MNUCHIN GALLERY, NEW YORK

The chronological span of the 22 works—paintings and sculptures—in this superb exercise in connoisseurship is 1960 to 2007. The artists included were all contemporaries, known to one another and sharing at least some artistic points of view if not a codified aesthetic.

This explains why a John Chamberlain crushed-automobile wall piece would fit comfortably in close proximity with two Carl Andre floor sculptures. Some secret kinship reconciles Andre’s Minimalism with Chamberlain’s abstraction in the same way that Brice Marden’s Shunt (1972) complements Robert Ryman’s 1960 Untitled: each sculpture and painting represents a different dialect of a single artistic language. Each explains the others while remaining independent.

Nowhere was mysterious affinity more in evidence than on the gallery’s second-floor rotunda, where a super-refined Donald Judd wall piece, Untitled (Bernstein 78-70), 1978, was hung above a rough Andre floor work, 32-Part Reciprocal Invention (1971), composed of lengths of the steel rods used to make reinforced concrete. The juxtaposition also underscores the relationship between Minimalist sculpture and architecture. While Judd’s work resembles a skyscraper, Andre’s is a building in progress.

In a single room there’s a fabulous Frank Stella shaped canvas from 1963, an Agnes Martin from 1985, and two Andres from 1968 and 1993. They all communicate with one another. Andre’s Fore River Crane (1993), made of western red cedar with natural cracks, constitutes a metaphor for the artistic will by reducing the inhuman scale of nature to human geometry. Andre created a colossal sculpture in almost domestic dimensions, as if to confirm a respect for nature and the need to control it that connected him with Martin’s Desert (1985) and Stella’s Ileana Sonnabend (1963): the universe only acquires meaning and value when shaped by the human imagination.

A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 90.

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