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Art History Resources: (Artists, Art Movements, Biographies, Artwork)

Art History: Minimalism: (1960 - 1975)

Minimalism rejects the need for social comment, self-expression, narrative, or any other allusion to history, politics, or religion. It is based on creating objects of interest and beauty. Minimalists reduced their work to the smallest number of colors, values, shapes, lines, and textures. David Burlyuk first used the term in an exhibition catalogue for John Graham’s paintings at the Dudensing Gallery in New York in 1929. The term was later applied to the movement in the 1960’s. Other names for the movement include ABC art, minimal art, reductivism, and rejective art. Minimalism was a reaction against the formal overkill and pretentiousness of Abstract Expressionism. It had roots in Pop art, Cubism, and Conceptual art and was also inspired by Russian Suprematists such as Kasimir Malevich.

An American-born movement, Minimalism stemmed mostly from the work of Frank Stella, whose Black Paintings were first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959, inspiring many artists to turn away from the expressive art of the past. Although it was never an organized, self-proclaimed movement, Minimalist art became dominant in sculpture and installation work, although there are multiple Minimalist painters. The 1966 exhibition in New York entitled "Primary Structures" was a key event in the history of the movement.

Minimalist art was normally precise and hard-edged. It incorporated geometric forms often in repetitive patterns and solid planes of color, normally cool hues or unmixed colors straight from the tube. Often based on a grid and mathematically composed, the use of industrial materials was common in order to eliminate the evidence of the artist’s hand. Minimalist art strived to create an object with presence, something that can be seen at its basic physical appearance and appreciated at face value.

Minimalists wanted their viewer to experience their work without the distractions of composition, theme, and other elements of traditional work. The medium and materials of the work was its reality, and was what Minimalist artists wanted to portray. The basis being on a work’s literal presence, the materials used were not intended to symbolize anything else. Color was not used to express feeling or mood, but it simply to delineate space. The work strived to evoke a response from the viewer in terms of the relationship between the various elements of the work. Minimalist artists rejected the idea that art should reflect the personal expression of its creator. There was a lack of emotion and subconscious decision-making in minimalist art, hiding the presence and feelings of the artists. Rather, the artists believed that the viewer’s personal reaction to the object was of higher importance, and thus strove to eliminate the presence of the creator in their work.

Minimalism questioned the nature of art and its place in society. Although some deemed Minimalist art to be unapproachable and barren, others saw the revolutionary concept of pure aestheticism and the strong affect that Minimalist theory had on post-modern art.

Artists: (biography & artworks) Related Paintings Reproductions

Andre, Carl - 1935 -
De Maria, Walter - 1935 -
Judd, Donald - 1928 - 1994
Kelly, Ellsworth - 1923 -
LeWitt, Sol - 1928 -
Morris, Robert - 1931 -
Reinhardt, Ad - 1913 - 1967
Smithson, Robert - 1938 - 1973
Stella, Frank - 1936 -


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