Thursday, March 8, 2007
Carl Andre, the political poet
Most people know Carl Andre as a "minimalist" sculptor. Just type his name in Google Images, and you'll see many pics of his sculptures. At Gallery 400, cultural historian Liz Kotz talked today about Andre's poetry collected in four unpublished manuscripts: "The Theory of Poetry," "One Hundred Sonnets," "Shape and Structure," "Lyrics and Odes," and "American Drill." Kotz's argument aims to: "show how Andre used strategies of removal, isolation and fragmentation to reveal what he saw as the “textual unconscious” of American genocide. (...)Andre’s most substantial series of poems of the 1960s concerned “King Philips War” – a series of battles that took place in 1675-1676 in Massachusetts, whose outcome was devastating to the traditional way of life of the native peoples of New England." He used a standard typewriter to type up his poems, and so the size and shape of the paper, of the letters, the inconsistent typewriter ribbon (so the letters are sometimes sharp and sometimes faint) all play into what the poem will look like on the page. He worked pretty much exclusively with found text (whether he found words in the dictionary, or in sentences in books). The result is that the poems look like his sculptures, but the best ones also make statements about war, genocide, racism, historical amnesia, what have you.