Pyramid (Square Plan)


Carl Andre ( American, 1935 )

1959 (destroyed), 1970 (remade)
more object details

General Description

Carl Andre assembled Pyramid (Square Plan) by stacking interlocking blocks of wood into a double pyramid pattern, with the weight of the material alone binding the work together. The natural, unfinished quality of the seventy-four standard fir two-by-fours has a directness and integrity that is influenced by the repeated forms and material used in railroad tracks. His clearly articulated sculptures comprised of unfinished, standard-cut horizontally extended timbers, stacked bricks and styrofoam units, or identical metal squares assembled on the floor, defined minimalism in the 1960s and redefined three-dimensional works of art in the 20th century. These seemingly simple and straightforward sculptures composed of interchangeable units belie a complex assimilation of influences from both art and life.

Andre grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts, near granite quarries and shipyards with stacks of sheet steel. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Andover, where he met teachers Hollis Frampton and Frank Stella. From Stella's early stripe paintings, Andrew discovered that the materiality or physicality of a work of art can be underscored by repetition of modular units or "particles," a concept further reinforced by the years (1960-64) he spent shuttling freight cars as a Pennsylvania Railroad conductor and brake-man. Andre's move from notching, serrating, or cutting into beams of wood, to cutting into space, or cutting across mass with "particles" (a process he calls "clastic") parallels his theoretical view of the development of sculpture from form to structure, and from structure to place.

Pyramid is one of the first works Andre made by piling up identical wooden shapes in a geometric construction, with rough, restrained, graceful power. The unfinished fir modules, held together only by their weight in an interlocking double pyramid pattern, have a primitive feel. For Andre, articulation of parts and their relationship maintains the integrity of the material and all its symbolic implications. Andre sees his art as accessible, "involved with maintaining life, and feeding life...very simple things."

Adapted from

  • Suzanne Weaver, "Pyramid (Square Plan)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 282.

  • Charles Wylie, Re-Seeing the Contemporary: Selected from the Collection, 2010

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 186.

Fun Facts

  • Although the present form of this sculpture dates to 1970, its original creation was in 1959. Andre completed a series of Pyramid works in 1959, but for lack of means and space was forced to destroy them.