Carl Andre born 1935
T01533 Last Ladder
Wood, 84 1/4 x 6 1/8 x 6 1/8 (214 x 15.5 x 15.5)
Purchased from the artist through the John Weber Gallery, New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1972
Exh: Carl Andre: Sculpture 1959-78, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, March-April 1978 (1, repr.)
Lit: Hollis Frampton, letter to Enno Develing published in exh. catalogue Carl Andre, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, August-October 1969, pp.8-9, repr. p.15; exh. catalogue Carl Andre: Sculpture 1958-1974, Kunsthalle, Bern, April-June 1975, No. 1959-1, p.13, repr. p.12 as 'Last Ladder'
Repr: exh. catalogue Carl Andre, Guggenheim Museum, New York, October-November 1970, p.10 as 'Ladder No.2' Winter 1958-9; Burlington Magazine, CXVIII, 1976, p.765
Carl Andre told the compiler on 12 May 1972 that he shared his friend Hollis Frampton's small apartment in Mulberry Street, New York, from the autumn of 1958 until the spring of 1959. They were also seeing a great deal of Frank Stella, who had been to school with them (though Andre, who was in a different class, did not get to know him until after they had left), and in 1959 Andre wrote a statement for Stella for the catalogue of the Museum of Modern Art's Sixteen Americans
At this period Andre was making drawings and sculptures, and writing. He had the idea of negative sculpture, taking a volume and cutting into it, as a kind of reaction to Brancusi. Hollis Frampton had been to visit Ezra Pound, who was fascinated by sculpture and had written a small monograph on Brancusi. Through Frampton's interest in Pound and Pound's interest in Brancusi, Andre himself became interested in Brancusi's carvings, especially the 'Endless Column'; but instead of making convex forms, he wanted to do concave cutting. He made sculpture in plastic and also in wood, using wood which he could scavenge or steal from construction sites. Stella and Hollis Frampton found this piece on a construction site and carried it back for him (he thinks it is hemlock of fir). The hole at the bottom was already there. He used the same method of cutting as in 'First Ladder' and 'Baboons', with a configuration of a curve and a plane, and a curve going into a plane. He worked on it in Stella's studio and carved it horizontally, using 1 1/2 in (3.8cm) chisels. 'First Ladder', the only other work called 'Ladder', is smaller and is set into a block to give it stability, whereas this work can stand upright - though somewhat unsteadily - on its own. He said that it was his largest carving and the culmination of the first phase of his sculpture. It was not exhibited at the time and was thought to have been lost until it was rediscovered by Hollis Frampton in the possession of a friend in the autumn of 1971. (The two sculptures now known as 'First Ladder' and 'Last Ladder' were originally entitled 'Ladder No. 1' and 'Ladder No. 2' respectively; they were incorrectly numbered in the catalogue of the exhibition at The Hague the other way round).
In his account of Andre's development (loc. cit.), Hollis Frampton confirmed that 'Last Ladder' and the related large wood carvings were made in the spring of 1959. However, according to the catalogue of Andre's work prepared by Angela Westwater in collaboration with the artist (Bern, op. cit.), 'First Ladder' dates from the end of 1958. For some years certain of these early works were known only from the photographs which Frampton took of them at the time. The one of this work shows it standing in Stella's studio, with Stella's large aluminium picture 'Union Pacific' 1960 hanging on the wall behind. It still has a few traces of aluminium paint.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.9-10, reproduced p.9