New York

Carl Andre

Sperone Westwater

Carl Andre’s new work comes out of the cardinal series (the beginnings of which were exhibited at the John Weber gallery in 1972) and out of pieces which appropriate, rather completely, the entire space of a room (as did work shown here early in Andre’s career, and work shown since then in LA, at the old Dwan Gallery and Ace Gallery, an in Europe). The new pieces are called Triodes, a word that Andre derived from the combination of the Greek words tri and hodos (meaning “three” and “path” or “way” respectively). The Triodes are like the Cardinals in tat they project from the base of a wall out into a room; their numerical make-up is also emphasized, as is the reflection of the metal (here copper) onto the wall, something even more obvious in the Deck series of 1974 than in the Cardinals.

However, unlike either, the Triodes also extend along the base of the wall, so their reflections are greater and their command of space is considerably expanded. The Triodes consist of copper plates one-half meter square (c. 20”) place in a T-formation along a wall and out into the room. The three extensions from the center plate are all of equal length, Thus the 9 Copper Triode is 13 copper plates: nine along the wall and four out into the room. Or, if you look at it another way: four plates on three axes out from one center plate. The projection into the room represents half of what is along the wall and the freedom of the shorter row balances the longer but confined one.

These single rows of plates form paths around and through the space of the rooms; they measure and contain it, and the empty look ceases to be negative space as it is in some of Andre’s other work. Previously Andre’s solid squares of plates established rather finite, static zones within a room, while his more linear pieces (Lever and the Deck series are examples), which could often not be walked on, simply cut through and divided space, necessitating movement parallel to them. The Triodes operate in both ways: the copper and the floor itself become static zones we can occupy while the copper plates also compel is to move along them, up to and alongside the wall. The reflecion of the copper on the wall gives Andre’s work certain pictorial qualities, as Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe pointed out in his discussion of the Deck series (Artforum, June, 1974), and the thicker plates of the Triodes place this pictoriality in clearer, more interesting conflict with its material source. Andre, like Judd, seems more inclined to accept the ability of certain metals to contain and reflect light and depth, along with their more obdurate material qualities. And now Andre takes a similar attitude to the wall—since the elections imply a mirroring, a continuation of the piece onto and into the surface of the wall.

In this particular installation, the copper plates along the wall invariably match its length as nearly as possible; this is not a requirement, but it should be. A particular balance between the size of the rom and that of the piece is crucial. The two pieces which each had a room to themselves worked better than the four pieces in the large gallery. The small pieces, like 3 Copper Triode, seemed just plain stubby.

While this show seemed better than Andre’s two previous ones, it contains no surprises although the continued strength is something of a surprise. In the mid-’60s, Andre reduced sculpture to the so-called zero point, and since then his work has had little in the way of chronology; it is only as differentiated as the spaces he works in and the various materials and unit sizes he employs. (Of course, all of Andre’s work is not of equal strength and when he works with very insubstantial materials like wire or thin metal, he seems to be heading toward the kind of reductive nostalgia that haunts Tuttle.) Even though his innovations have proven fertile territory for other artists (particularly Serra, Rabinowich and Shapiro), the severe reduction of Andre’s sculpture has left him few alternatives for development. He cannot change too much without undermining the power of his original statement, and thus it becomes a position which is more ideological than esthetic, something like the one Ad Reinhardt occupied: admirable, uncompromising and uncomfortable.

Roberta Smith