'Arte Povera' (an Italian term meaning poor/impoverished art, allegedly derived from the 'poor theatre' of the Polish film director Jerzy Grotowski) describes a type of avant-garde art made from "found objects" including worthless materials, like soil, bits of wood, rags, scraps of newspaper. from the Encyclopedia of Art History
Carl Andre was born in 1935 in Massachusetts. Artist, writer, and activist, Andre lived an exceptional life in New York City. Andre attended the Phillips Academy, where he met Frank Stella. Along with Brancusi, Stella was a great influence on Andre's early sculptures. Andre's sculptures are considered "Minimalist" works, a branch of art concerned with "simple, massive forms."
In 1965, Andre began working for a railway company. This blue collar working experience had a large impact on his sculptures, especially in terms of subject and medium. Andre interworked his experiences with hard labor and man-made simple structures into his art. ‘The railway completely tore me away from the pretensions of art, even my own, and I was back on the horizontal lines of steel and rust and great masses of coal and material, timber, with all kinds of hides and glue and the burdens and weights of the cars themselves’
Andre's sculptures have received quite a bit of criticism. The Equivalent VIII(above) has been particularly a subject of controversy. This piece is part of a series of eight sculptures made out of 120 "equivalent" bricks; though overall composition may be different, they are all derived from the same earthly material, each individual component has the same shape and weight, and there are the same amount of bricks in each piece. The Tate acquired this piece in 1972, which sparked the age-old, circuitous argument concerning the essence of art, what can be considered art and what can't. The taxpayers found this sculpture too simple, too common to be art. I think therein lies Andre's genius, however. In this piece, the line between art and life is blurred, where the physical reality is art, with underlying components of hard labor, human struggle, and simple, straightforward production of work.