Wiping The Floor

I am so late to this, but thanks to Christian Alborz Oldham’s superlative assemblage newsletter, I am now completely enthralled by Anna C. Chave’s close reading of Carl Andre’s 2013 Dia retrospective.

Chave’s essay, “Grave Matters: Positioning Carl Andre at Career’s End,” published in the Winter 2014 edition of CAA’s Art Journal, is a revised version of the talk she gave, amazingly, at Dia itself, part of a 2-day symposium. And it is devastating.

Dia’s Andre retrospective, which followed Philippe Vergne to MOCA, was controversial at the time, of course. [Because Andre killed his wife and got away with it, and many people in the art world decided they were fine with that.] But rather than boycott or protest from the outside, Chave took her Minimalism-critical toolbox into the belly of the beast, and went to work.

Just a couple of nuggets to highlight: Chave notes how in both the installation and the catalogue essays, the curators depicted Andre as a heavy drinker—and thus ultimately not responsible for his actions on the night of Ana Mendieta’s death—and as physically feeble and harmless—and thus incapable of threatening violence, much less perpetrating it. An essay on Andre’s work by Arnauld Pierre actually has a section about “The Falling of Bodies,” but it’s about the emotional impact on the artist of seeing the World Trade Center attack from his balcony [which, Chave clarifies, was physically impossible.]

Chave deftly refutes Pierre’s critiques of her 1990 essay, “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power,” and then concludes with a critique of last-minute changes to Dia’s own symposium, which was split into two days in such a way that Vergne, curator James Meyer, and the artist himself, averted the possibility of even hearing Chave’s presentation–and of engaging in dialogue or accountability.

There’s more, too, which I’ll come back to. But in the mean time, track down this essay.

Read “Grave Matters” and other of Chave’s many publications on her website [annachave.com]
“Grave Matters: Positioning Carl Andre at Career’s End” [art journal via jstor]