Carl Andre’s “Stone Field Sculpture”

36 Rocks Sitting on the Triangularish Lawn on Gold Street Near Main
“Stone Field” Sculpture, Hartford

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stone1.jpgArt. It means different things to different people. Hartford has a rather, um, unique installation right next to the historic “Ancient Burying Grounds” cemetery and across the street from the Wadsworth Atheneum; 36 rocks sitting on the triangularish lawn on Gold Street near Main.

What makes this field of stones interesting enough for me to take a picture of it and write about it is the massive public outcry that greeted its unveiling. Hartford denizens and writers still talk about it; marking anniversaries with biting editorials and sarcastic blurbs.

Carl Andre was (and is) an “important” artist and sculptor. So Hartford apparently had $87,000 to throw around back in 1977 and decided to commission him for an installation. He accepted and Hartford got… Yup, 36 rocks sitting on the triangularish lawn on Gold Street near Main.

The BBC seems to be enamored with Mr. Andre… “Andre’s sculptures tend to involve simple elements – bricks, for example, or stones – arranged simply and without any subjective content… Andre’s sculptures tend to hug the ground, an unusual quality in sculpture. They also tend to excite unfavourable comment; abstract art usually does that.

Stone Field Sculpture, which was created in 1977, consists of eight rows of boulders in a triangular shape, so that the first row contains one large boulder, and the eighth row eight smaller boulders. The stones are of local rock, and were chosen so that their composition reflects the makeup of rock in the area. For example, there is the same proportion of basalt to gneiss (metamorphic rock) in the sculpture as there is in the Hartford area. The rows of stone are reminiscent of tombstones, a comparison made clear because Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground is adjacent to the sculpture.

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As a major work by an important artist, you would expect Stone Field Sculpture to hold an honoured place in Hartford, but you’d be wrong. The conservative ethic runs deep there, and the work is regarded as something of an embarrassment by many who should know better. Life is like that sometimes – show beauty and meaning in certain ways and it will be missed. If it means you must sit and enjoy it in solitude, the better for you and the worse for them.”

The city even tried to get out of their contract with Andre and not pay him a dime. (This was mostly driven by the popular outcry over the installation.) But once lawyers got involved, the city paid up and there it sits; 36 rocks sitting on the triangularish lawn on Gold Street near Main.

Back to Rocks, Caves and Dens

16 responses to “Carl Andre’s “Stone Field Sculpture””

  1. michael miller says:

    hello,
    i am a student at oregon state university and i am in a intro to visual arts class. for extra credit we had to write a response on carl andre’s stone field sculpture. our response had to do with a statement that had to do with, “i don’t think the stone field sculptre is art at all.”
    i responced and said that it was art. either it’s art or andre was just messing with people. (also a big fan of messing with people.
    i like the sculpure very well.

  2. Elizabeth B. says:

    Hi! -^.^-

    I had to do a debate paper for my Art History class at Southwest VA Community College either defending or attacking Carl Andre’s “Stone Field Sculpture,” and I just wanted to thank you for the informative information, and to let you know that it helped in writing my essay.

    For the record I chose to attack his sculpture; my reasoning was that even though his artwork is essentially his own vision, in this case it was a *commission,* and therefore partly someone else’s vision too, since they were paying for it. The client was obviously very unsatisfied with the final result, so much so that they tried to get out of paying Mr. Andre, which I believe they were within their rights to do so. He obviously held his own “creative vision” above what Hartford wanted, and since it was their lawn and their money, I don’t believe that was right.

    Thank you for writing! You were very helpful.

  3. Gretchen says:

    As one who lived in the greater Hartford area when the Famous Artist was hired, I remember thinking that Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers got bilked. To this day I am not sure whether we ought to be angry with the artist or the people who hired him. As one letter writer points out, it is art. Presumably the committee that hired Andre had seen some of his other work; presumably they felt his style of work would be suitable. But I would also think that as a commission piece–while not architecture where plans would be shown prior to building– there would have been some discussion of what the work would consist of. Nobody was happy, including the committee, when this was done. However I am unsure when the committee decided they were unhappy–before or after the citizens pointed out that it was rather an Emperor’s new clothes situation.

    I also take exception with the BBC’s dismissal of critics of this piece, saying of Andre’s works “…They also tend to excite unfavourable comment; abstract art usually does that.” In fact, Hartford via the Wadsworth Atheneum, has a long history of embracing abstract art. Jackson Pollack, Salvidor Dali, and many other artists found a warm reception here.

    But perhaps, as I suspect, the committee knew what they were getting–or were likely to get–in which case the attempt to not pay Andre is rather like the citizens of Hamlin not wishing to pay a certain piper for ridding them of rats.

  4. zark says:

    I live in CT and just stumbled upon this article about a “stone field sculpture” today. (I was researching Holy Land in Waterbury) You really peaked my curiosity! I want to state that Carl Andre’s piece looks beautiful, the ideas behind it are marvelous and I now plan on visiting. I never heard of this artist or controversy before but now I have to research both. It seems that the committee couldn’t prove that they were buying more than rocks. It can be hard to please everybody, but this really inspires me. Thank you for your blog it looks very interesting.. I read a few of the tree ones already. I bookmarked you and now and plan to read and visit more of CT. Thank you! zaRK new haven CT

  5. Joe Marcoux says:

    I am a West Hartford,Ct resident spending time in Paris where I saw another of Andre’s sculptures in the Tuilleries yesterday. An art student described the artist and the work and was shocked by my recount of Ct’s reaction to “stone field sculpture”. Seeing this sculpture,in the shadow of the Louvre, may have colored my reaction, but I am in awe of his work.

  6. Ed Chaves says:

    Often you find children playing upon the rocks or people just leaning or sitting on them. As to the question of whether it is art….it is. Just not very good art. I still enjoy walking amongst it.

  7. Art says:

    Art is not something that makes sense or is pleasing to all. It peaks interest and generates converstaion. How many times have you heard that the Campbell’s Soup Cans, by Andy Warhol, aren’t art. How about Jackson Pollock? Art is art and we don’t have enough of it in Hartford to dismantle or rearrange what we do have.

  8. Real Hartford » Hartford Pew Review: Center Church says:

    [...] to the left of the church, we see art history: Stone Field. This area is the perfect place to sit and drink lemonade under the shade trees, we [...]

  9. Friends of Stone Field Sculpture says:

    Hartford didn’t get “bilked”. The money came from the NEA and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

  10. CCC Student says:

    Honestly I think it was a waste of $87,000. Art can be a variety of things but when it has no meaning behind it why should it be considered art??? I’m a student at the local community college and was assigned to have a debate on the “Stone Field Sculpture” and I have to represent that it is art but I strongly believe that this isn’t art.

  11. DC says:

    What a joke. This is ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ in reality. If this was to be dumped on YOUR 2 acre lawn, would you accept and pay for it as a ‘Sculpture’? Hartford was taken by a con man, and he laughed all the way to the bank. Only pretentious idiots defend this lunacy and theft of public money as art.

  12. Stephen says:

    Who are you, Friends of Stone Field, and how can I contact you? I am researching the history of this work.

  13. Friends of Stone Field Sculpture says:

    Sure. Send me an email at oiseaux AT G Mail Dot Com.

  14. elizabeth davis says:

    Not very good art, con game, embarrassment, worthy of dismantling/moving.
    Anyone who is defining or deriding the sculpture without having: touched, walked within, been with the installation for at least 15 minutes, is no more than a wannabe censor who hasn’t read the book.

    As someone who has done all of the above for 25 years running, I say: thank you Chance and Action and Serendipity and Inertia and Passion for Stone Field Sculpture.

  15. LL says:

    Only artists who like to hide behind their forced, contrived pseudo-intellectual psychobabble believe it is “art.”

    You could have given a construction company $10K, and they could have delivered the same “art.”

    It is astounding how people try to create meaning where there isn’t any. This loser “artist” was probably laughing the entire time that someone payed him $87K for that garbage!

  16. Angela says:

    I’d say it is because this article puts into obvious terms, the problem with aesthetics and art.

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