Carl Andre, the mid-20th century Minimalist sculptor whose legacy is clouded by allegations that he murdered Cuban artist Ana Mendieta, died this morning, January 24, in a Manhattan hospice facility at the age of 88. His death was confirmed by Paula Cooper Gallery.
Andre was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1935 and moved to New York in 1957 after serving in the US Army. His artistic output is marked by floor-based works based on the use of industrial materials and elementary forms. His success in the 1960s and ’70s was eclipsed by the untimely death of Mendieta, his third wife, who plummeted 34 stories from the couple’s Greenwich Village apartment during an argument in September 1985. No eyewitnesses were on site and no photos were taken of her body, but a doorman in the street below told New York Times reporters that he had heard a woman screaming before Mendieta’s body had landed with a loud thud on the roof of an all-night delicatessen.
Andre was indicted and ultimately acquitted of second-degree murder in 1988 in a highly publicized bench trial that polarized the arts community well into the 21st century. In 2014, Andre was the subject of a retrospective at Dia Chelsea that was met with a protest action involving dark red chicken blood and guts in honor of Mendieta’s memory and her own artwork. Three years later, protesters again disrupted an exhibition of his work at the Geffen Contemporary at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, distributing postcards featuring Mendieta’s portrait with the question: “Carl Andre is at MoCA Geffen. ¿Dónde está Ana Mendieta?” (“Where is Ana Mendieta?”)
In 2020, Andre was accused of assaulting actress Ellen Barkin, who recalled an instance from her early 20s in which the artist violently clasped his hands around her neck.
Despite enduring suspicions over Andre’s involvement in Mendieta’s death, the sculptor continued to receive wide acclaim in the art world, retaining his representation by the Chelsea gallery Paula Cooper with a solo exhibition there as recently as 2022. The gallery, which had worked with Andre since 1964, said in a statement shared with Hyperallergic that it will continue to work on a forthcoming catalogue raissoné of the artist’s sculptures. The artist’s works are also in prominent museum collections globally including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Andre is survived by his wife, the artist Melissa Kretschmer, and his sister, Carol.