Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Tag: carl andre

Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us

Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Szeeman-Install-57-1

Installation view of Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us (1974) Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, February 4–April 22, 2018 Photo: Brian Forrest

In 1972, Carl Andre wrote a note to Harald Szeemann in response to the Swiss curator’s invitation to participate in documenta 5. ‘DO YOU HAVE AN ART SECTION?’ asked the irascible artist. As it turned out, the sarcastic enquiry was not entirely unfounded. Szeemann’s radical curatorial mission, developed in documenta 5 and pursued over the next three decades of his career, was to pollute the category of art history with artefacts from the entire field of visual culture, and to subordinate the static art object to a more fluid representation of a creative individual’s interior world. At documenta 5, there were areas featuring political propaganda, the art of the mentally ill, advertising, and science fiction. (A proposed pornography section was cancelled.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Seeds of Destruction

A History of Iconoclasm in British Art

Dead Christ (1500–20) Courtesy: The Mercers' Company

Dead Christ (1500–20)
Courtesy: The Mercers’ Company

In 1957, the artist Gustav Metzger mounted an exhibition of damaged art in King’s Lynn. ‘Treasures from East Anglian Churches’ was a selection of sacred artefacts that had been attacked during the period of iconoclasm between the English Reformation in the 1530s and the Commonwealth of 1649–60 when Britain, under the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, was effectively a republic. Metzger already knew plenty about annihilation. Born to Jewish parents in Nuremburg, he was evacuated via Kindertransport to England in 1939 at the age of twelve, just as Nazi Germany was engaging in genocide against its own people. His parents disappeared soon after. In the 1950s he was involved in activism, first with the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament and then as a founder of the Committee of 100. Later he made art born of material violence; nylon panels that he corroded with acid, and liquid crystal projections that melted and reformed under the heat of the projectors. He called it Auto-Destructive Art.

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Carl Andre

Carl Andre building 'Cedar Piece', 1964

What is the most important thing to say about Carl Andre? Carl can’t remember. ‘What was it I once said?’ he responds when I ask him which, of all his contributions to the history of art, he is most proud of. ‘I didn’t make a great contribution but all I did was add the … It was something like …’ He tails off. ‘My mind is gone. I have no memory,’ he says simply and equitably. At 77, Andre is one of the most important living artists in America. Melissa Kretschmer, his wife, cuts in. She accompanies us throughout our conversation; nearly three decades Andre’s junior, she is better able to recall some of the details that evade her husband. Read the rest of this entry »