Journal Article

Literality and Absence of Self in the Work of Carl Andre

Dominic Rahtz

in Oxford Art Journal

Volume 27, issue 1, pages 61-78
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 0142-6540
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1741-7287 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oaj/27.1.61
Literality and Absence of Self in the Work of Carl Andre

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Minimalism's way with materials has frequently been described as ‘literalist’, and this literalism has often been identified with impersonality, or an absence in the work of the self of the artist. This essay considers a short period in the early career of the Minimalist Carl Andre, in order to show that the literality arrived at in his work was not simply posited as an a priori characteristic of the materials he used, but was produced as a rhetorical effect through the negation of conventional artistic modes of expression through such procedures as dissociation and mechanical self-patterning. To support this reading, the essay also considers the parallel development undergone by Andre's poetic production in the same period. According to this view, literality is treated as a figure rather than the absence of the figural. The absence of self that is the correlative of literality is then reconsidered in the light of the view. It is argued that the absence of self in Andre's work is similarly produced as a rhetorical effect, but what follows from this is not the reintroduction of self in thr form of the producer of such an effect, but rather an insight into the figurality of self as contingent upon its material realisation.

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Subjects: Art Forms ; Art Styles ; Art Subjects and Themes ; History of Art ; Theory of Art

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