Carl Andre, Iconic Minimalist Movement Artist Tried For Murder, Dies At 88
By Mikelle Leow, 30 Jan 2024
Carl Andre, a towering figure in minimalist sculpture, passed away on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy that is as complex as it is influential.
Andre’s works, known for their stark simplicity and industrial materials, challenged and expanded the boundaries of contemporary art, intertwining them with visual poetry. He constructed his works from everyday materials like bricks, metal plates, and wooden blocks, arranging them in geometric patterns directly on the ground or against walls, and making a statement on the relationship between art, space, and viewer.
Carl Andre poetry & sculpture pic.twitter.com/sLSaGRIBF3— SÍWÍIÍMÍ (@sarahhammondco) July 10, 2018
Yet, for all the debate incited about the nature of art, a long shadow draped over these barebones creations—turning the gaze to the mysterious death of his wife and fellow artist, Ana Mendieta, in 1985.
Mendieta, a Cuban-American artist with a burgeoning career, was known for her powerful “earth-body” artwork, which explored themes of feminism, life, death, and identity. Her marriage to Andre was tumultuous and her death, from a fall from their 34th-floor apartment in New York City on September 8, 1985, plunged Andre into a whirlwind of suspicion and legal battles.
Andre called 911 in the early hours, reporting that the couple had quarreled about who was more famous and that Mendieta had “somehow gone out the window.” The police, upon arrival, noted scratches on Andre’s face and arms, which they deemed suspicious, and charged him with second-degree murder.
The trial that ensued was fraught with tension and tragedy. The prosecution argued that a violent argument had culminated in Mendieta’s death, suggesting Andre had pushed her out of the window. Witnesses testified to hearing a woman’s screams followed by a thud, but no one saw the fall itself. The defense countered, suggesting Mendieta’s death was a suicide or accidental, pointing to a lack of direct evidence tying Andre to the act and highlighting Mendieta’s previous struggles with depression.
Ultimately, the ordeal, decided by a judge in a bench trial, ended in Andre’s acquittal in 1988, citing insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was responsible for Mendieta's death. This verdict did little to quell the controversy, however, and has remained a point of division within the art community and beyond.
The story of Carl Andre is thus a study in contrasts. On one hand, his minimalism is celebrated for its bold reimagining of sculpture’s possibilities. On the other, it’s marred by the complexities of Mendieta’s death, a tragic moment that has sparked ongoing debates about justice, the treatment of women in the art world, and how personal biography impacts the reception of a creator.
Every eulogy for (Carl Andre) are a million eulogies for Ana.— Shruti Belliappa (@BelliappaShruti) January 26, 2024
Photo| Ana Mendieta by Galerie Lelong pic.twitter.com/coLnLx5W93
Even as the art community bows its head at the loss of a minimalist icon, it also grapples with the unresolved tensions and questions that Mendieta’s death raised.
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