Carl Andre, Poems, (1950’s-1970’s)
Carl Andre provided a new perspective on sculpture when he placed work flat on the floor; his touch as a poet was no less radical. Andre designed the shape of poetry according to his own understanding of the word as a concrete module, similar to the squares of industrial metal, wooden timbers, or bricks in his signature three-dimensional pieces. His poems don’t always incorporate complete sentences, phrases, or even associative terms, but use words sequentially. Shaped text functions as both pattern and poem - visual art and literature simultaneously. On the occasion of his first gallery show at Tibor de Nagy, Andre said he wanted to “seize and hold the space”, and the same is true in his command of the clean, white, 8 1/2 X 11 inch sheet of paper, a standardized, manufactured material. Here the words are methodically punched out on a manual typewriter, or hand-written with a felt-tip pen; mostly dense, black text on a white background, sometimes the reverse, and occasionally red.
A rigorous, formal structure is applied to each of Andre’s poems, and he has written over 1,000 pages since the late 1950’s. The placement of the letters which form the words, and then how the words sit on the page have provided him with great diversity in shape and pattern. Often the arrangement of the words creates a defined field, a text-landscape, carefully placed on the page. For exhibition purposes, the poems are positioned, according to Andre’s specifications, in handsome wood and glass vitrines, of his own design - a composition within a composition. These poems are not meant to be read in a book but seen, like art on display.