Carl Andre Mail Art

It would be weird and unsettling to get a letter from someone who killed his wife, is something I have thought about but never had to deal with personally.

The envelope containing Carl Andre’s letter to Coco Fusco in June 1993
(photo Coco Fusco/Hyperallergic)

In unrelated news, last night Hyperallergic published an account by artist Coco Fusco of the time in 1993 Carl Andre wrote her a letter. Fusco had published an essay in a Mexico City art magazine about Ana Mendieta’s art and her complex and groundbreaking relationship to Cuba. Andre wrote to Fusco c/o the magazine:

He marked his letter “personal and confidential,” put a copyright sign on it, and ended it with “for your eyes only,” as if to say, don’t even think of showing this to anybody. For years, I was too afraid to mention the letter in public, imagining that he might take revenge. I had heard plenty of scary stories about Mr. Andre from Mendieta’s close friends. I had never met him, but I knew he was a famous White male artist who might also be a murderer.

Now that Andre is dead, Fusco describes the letter’s contents, her experience, and the art context of Mendieta’s work, as well as the broader Cuban artist community, and willful misperceptions of it. But because of the copyright/eyes only thing, she still doesn’t publish or reproduce it.

If she wants to publish it, maybe she should put it up for sale.

Last summer and fall, a weird and unsettling collection of dozens of postcards from Carl Andre came up for auction in Chicago. One lot was all postcards of Andre’s own art; another was postcards of other art. It was immediately unsettling that the correspondent had the same initials as Andre’s wife. But that was surpassed by the timeline that spanned many years, but which concentrated on the years after Mendieta’s death, and Andre’s trial for her murder. So during all that, while he sat silent in court, Andre kept up lively conversations and shared his poetic ruminations through the mail.

I spent a little time last year trying to make some sense of these postcards, and to see who might be on the other end of them. I dropped it, partly because it became clear that some of it was related to correspondence art, or chain letters, of sending postcards on to the next person in a chain. Whoever got in the chain next to Andre may have kept up a side conversation. One outlier lot included some correspondence to Andre, as if they sent one letter back and forth. But it also mentions Andre’s shocked rudeness when his longtime postcard friend introduced himself IRL at an opening. It was the early 90s equivalent of a tumblr mutual showing up at your office. And you’d been acquitted of killing your wife.

Anyway, Andre’s signature on all these postcards is a C around an a, which means he must have hated the @ sign takeover. But it does look a little like a copyright.