Cinder blocks avoid banality and convey transendence
“Lament for the Children” is a strong showing of Carl Andre’s work, consisting of 100 concrete blocks standing vertically in rows of ten at the intersection of a grid. As mundane as concrete might be, in no way does that describe the gravity of this work.
The sculpture received its first installation in 1976 in the abandoned children’s playground at PS 1, as part of “Rooms,” the inaugural show of a facility in Long Island City that has become one of the nation’s most important contemporary art centers.
“Lament”’s grid formation is derived from the interval between the joints in the paving of the playground. Subsequently destroyed, the project was remade in 1996 for an exhibition at Germany’s Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.
The current exhibition marks the first time the piece has been shown in New York since its creation.
There is no arguing with the silent strength of this work. The piece bears a visual resemblance to a field of gravestones. The integrity afforded this piece is achieved by how the blocks occupy their space. The contrast of the neutral, variegated, concrete blocks against the polished concrete floors, the pristine white gallery walls, wooden ceilings, and skylights enables the materials, light, and space to conjure a spiritual experience, one more complex than could ever reasonably be expected from the block-like repetition at the heart of this installation.
Art is a state of mind and this exhibit allows one to project feelings, observations, and learning onto the sculpture and experience a feeling of solemnity, strength, and purity.