Minimalissimo


Speaking of the notion of ‘suchness’ in his book Zen and the Brian, James H. Austin notes:

In Japanese, the word ‘sono-mama’ had long implied that something could stand as it is, untouched. In Chinese, the expressions ‘Chi-mo’ or ‘Shi-mo’ were used to mean ‘just so’, or ‘so it is.’

I open with this quote to introduce Carl Andre’s sculpture of 1966, Equivalent VIII, which consists of of 120 fire bricks arranged as a rectangular prism on the floor of the gallery space.

I would like to suggest—for I haven’t encountered it myself—a Zen Buddhist reading of Andre’s work, which would frame it as a presentation of things as they are, untouched. In David Batchelor’s book on Minimal Art, André is quoted as saying this about his work:

The one thing I learned in my work is that to make the work I wanted to you couldn’t impose properties on materials, you have to reveal the properties of the material.

And elsewhere, speaking of his sculpture: Their subject is matter.

These quotes encapsulate for me what is offered by Andre’s work: the opportunity to encounter this sculpture as just bricks. Let it be so.

 

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