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Movements Post-Minimalism

Post-Minimalism

Started: 1966

Quotes

"If you can manipulate clay and end up with art, you can manipulate yourself in it as well. It has to do with using the body as a tool, an object to manipulate."
Bruce Nauman
"My life and art have not been separated. They have been together."
Eva Hesse
"Disengagement with preconceived enduring forms and orders for things is a positive assertion. It is part of the work's refusal to continue aestheticizing form by dealing with it as a prescribed end."
Robert Morris
"When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless."
Sol LeWitt, 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art' (1967)
"Considerations of ordering are necessarily causal and imprecise and unemphasized. Random piling, loose stacking, hanging, give passing form to the material. Chance is accepted and indeterminacy is implied since replacing will result in another configuration. Disengagement with preconceived enduring forms and orders for things is a positive assertion. It is part of the work's refusal to continue aestheticizing form by dealing with it as a prescribed end."
Robert Morris, 'Anti Form' (1968)

KEY ARTISTS

Vito Acconci Vito Acconci
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Further External Info
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Joseph Beuys Joseph Beuys
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Joseph Beuys Page
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Chris Burden Chris Burden
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Chris Burden Page
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Eva Hesse Eva Hesse
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Eva Hesse Page
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Sol LeWitt Sol LeWitt
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Sol LeWitt Page
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Richard Long Richard Long
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Robert Morris Robert Morris
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Robert Morris Page
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Bruce Nauman Bruce Nauman
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Bruce Nauman Page
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Richard Serra Richard Serra
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Richard Serra Page
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Robert Smithson Robert Smithson
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Robert Smithson Page
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"The steel and the space, or the object and the void, become one and the same."

Synopsis

The term "Post-Minimalism" was first used in reference to a range of art practices that emerged in the wake of Minimalism in the late 1960s. In a similar manner to the term "Post-Impressionism" it serves to gather together a range of styles that are related, yet which often have very different, even opposing interests. Post-Minimalism refers to tendencies such as Body art, Performance, Process art, Site-Specific art, and aspects of Conceptual art. Some artists associated with this tendency sought to extend the Minimalists' interest in creating art objects that do not have the representational function of traditional sculpture, objects that are abstract, anonymous in appearance, and have a strong material presence. But other Post-Minimalists pursued very different goals: many reacted against the earlier movement's impersonality, trying to invest sculpture once again with emotionally expressive qualities. While the formal and theoretical interests of this period are no longer so influential, many of the themes and strategies of Post-Minimal artists remain very current, making it one of the most enduring styles of the last half-century.

Key Ideas

Some Post-Minimal artists were interested in extending Minimalism's interest in anonymity and in emptying artwork of the artist's personal expression. Instead of using industrial materials and impersonal methods of fabrication to achieve this, they used other strategies. They presented material in ways that seemed unprocessed or uncomposed, or the material drooped and sagged, clearly governed more by the character of the material rather than the artist's intentions. To distinguish it from Minimalism's perceived concern with form and composition, this is referred to as "anti-form."
Some Post-Minimalists shared the Minimalists' interest in abstraction and materiality, yet rejected their preoccupation with industrial materials. They also rejected the movement's mood and rhetoric, often perceived as cold, over-intellectual and even authoritarian, responding with sculptures of more expressive qualities, often evoking the body and aspects of sexuality.
Many Post-Minimal artists admired Minimalism's break with conventional formats of painting and sculpture, wanting to investigate new limits or traditions in the making of art. Some believed that the chosen material should govern the character of the art object. Others believed in a more expanded sense of technique that encompassed the artist's processes, the materials and even the way gravity operates on materials.
Some artists also took the cue to get out of the gallery and install art in new environments. This led to a new interest in the relationship between the artwork and its site, called Site-Specificity. Others took artwork into the natural environment in the Land art movement.

Most Important Art

Untitled (1970)
Artist: Eva Hesse
Eva Hesse was one of the artists included in Lucy Lippard's ground-breaking 1966 show Eccentric Abstraction. She was profoundly influenced by the Minimalist Carl Andre, yet her work is characteristic of feminist responses to that earlier movement. This Untitled piece uses soft and malleable materials like as cloth, latex and wire mesh. They are unconventional for an artwork of this period, combining the Minimalist industrial, with the somewhat domestic. The effect they create is organic, the two dangling appendages at the center of each square evoking wobbly legs. The bulging, irregular frames of the four squares seem to mock the perfect straight angles of Minimalism, even as they hang on the wall like conventional paintings. Hesse's work is typical of those among her peers who borrowed the anonymous language of Minimalism, but rejected its austere formalism, reintroducing emotionally expressive qualities.
Fiberglass, wire mesh, latex, and cloth - Des Moines Art Center, Iowa
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Beginnings

New developments in art came fast in the 1960s. No sooner had Minimalism emerged onto the public stage than Post-Minimalism surfaced. In a 1966 New York exhibition entitled Eccentric Abstraction, critic Lucy Lippard curated work by a group of artists, including Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois and Bruce Nauman. Containing work with highly personal and sensuous qualities, it drew on traditions of Surrealism, Dada and Expressionism. The pieces often combined unusual, soft and pliable materials. Some borrowed the modular, repetitive compositions typical of Minimalism, but many also exploited more relaxed and open structures.

Critic and art historian Robert Pincus-Witten, who coined the term 'Post-Minimalism,' observed that what Lucy Lippard referred to as 'Eccentric Abstraction' was actually part of emerging reactions against Minimalism. These reactions gained further recognition in 1969 when the Whitney Museum of American Art staged the exhibition Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials. Grounded in Process art, the show was concerned with artists' attitudes towards materials and techniques. It highlighted artists extending Minimalism's interest in abstraction and anonymity. The title Anti-Illusion drew attention to a widespread preoccupation with emptying sculpture of its last vestiges of representation, and therefore expression. Representation, generally of the human figure, had always been at the heart of sculpture, and ridding it of this tradition proved to be a complex and difficult task.

Another significant Post-Minimalism exhibition was entitled When Attitudes Become Form, which surveyed more conceptual trends, was staged in London and Bern in 1969. In the same year, artist Robert Morris organized 9 in a Warehouse, a Process art exhibition that included work by Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra, as well as a selection of Arte Povera artists from Italy. This indicated that, although American in origin, the term Post-Minimalism also adequately described developments elsewhere.

Concepts and Styles

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Process Art

Exemplified by Robert Morris's clumps and random accumulations of soft felt, Process Art emerged in the late 1960s and built the foundation for other Post-Minimal tendencies. Like the 'action paintings' of Jackson Pollock, in which the physical act of dripping paint onto the canvas is an integral aspect of the work, Process art produces work in which the act of creation - the process of production - is inseparable from its meaning. Process art focuses on the event and the action. For that reason, often it leads to works in which time, impermanence, and site-specificity are important issues.

Works in which Richard Serra hurls molten lead at the walls and floor of a gallery are also an example of the ephemeral, spontaneous and shapeless character of much Process art. But Eva Hesse's work also demonstrates an aspect of this, sometimes taking the Minimalist cube or grid as a basis for the work, but putting more attention on matter and materials. For instance, Hesse's Accession II (1967-69), one of a series, contains a cube of aluminum mesh with an open top. The mesh is intricately woven through with plastic tubing, drawing attention to its soft interior rather than its geometric form. Hesse uses industrial materials and makes them seem organic, like grass or hair, exploring their inherent possibilities. She imbues Minimalist forms with organic warmth and sensuality to create a protective space, while making the process of the work's fabrication clear to the viewer (something which is often more hidden in the highly finished works of the Minimalists.)

Body Art

Using the body as a means of expression was another one of the ways Post-Minimal artists sought to escape the saleable, object-character of Minimalist artworks. It also gave them an ideal way to imbue their work with human expressiveness, a quality that was lacking from Minimalist art. Body artists were influenced by Fluxus and Dada performances, theater, and even anti-war demonstrations.

Some artists used their bodies to perform repetitive gestures that highlighted ordinary, seemingly pointless actions typically engaged in without notice or consequence. The nature of the simple, repeated actions often made the viewer aware of the passing of time and the physicality of the body. One artist who explored this mode was Vito Acconci. In Blinks (1969), he walked down a street trying hard not to blink and taking a photograph every time he did. Bruce Nauman also explored the expressive potential of simple actions in many of the films he made in the late 1960s. The films often documented the artist continually pacing, walking a line or perimeter, or pulling at his own face. In all of these films, there is no final product and no clear purpose for the actions carried out by the artist.

Body art could also be confrontational, aggressive and dangerous. As a result of cynical and pessimistic attitudes sparked by economic troubles, declining faith in government and opposition to the Vietnam War, artists began to adopt an aggressive manner that emphasized fear and the vulnerability of the human condition. For example, in works after 1970, Acconci brings an autobiographical aspect to his work, often placing himself under stress and discomfort. In doing so, he effectively blurs the boundaries between the private and public self. He implements an element of sadomasochism and violence in many of his Body art performances, he invokes his sexuality, and he conceives of his body as a malleable object. For example, in Conversions (1970) Acconci tried several means to alter his sexual identity from male to female, in one instance using a candle flame to remove his chest hair.

In a similar manner to the violent actions performed by Acconci, Chris Burden intentionally placed himself in physically threatening scenarios in a series of performances from the early 1970s. In some notorious works, Burden trapped himself in a locker for days without food, arranged to be shot in the arm at close range and had himself nailed to a car. By constructing shocking situations of self-mutilation, his works became about the experience, often specifically about the reality of pain and violence.

Earth Art

A wide-spread awareness of the environment and concern for ecological issues also developed in the 1970s. In this spirit many Post-Minimalists turned to the earth itself as the material and site for art-making. They altered the way a particular site could be experienced, often blurring the boundaries between the location and the artwork itself. Typical of this is work by British artist Richard Long Line Made by Walking (1967) takes the form of a line made in the grass, a mark that could easily be overlooked in the landscape and that will inevitably disappear with time. Long's work throughout the 1970s and 1980s took him around the world and generally involved the simple process of walking and leaving a trail, or rearranging stones into shapes along the way. He would record the work with photographs and maps of territories he had visited.

Work by Gordon Matta-Clark in early 1970s, and by Tony Cragg in the 1980s, formed a sort of urbanized Earth Art, using refuse and debris as well as condemned buildings as site and medium. Again, the impetus to escape the traditional sculptural object and bring art outside the gallery is typical of Post-Minimalism. This variation of Earth art served to emphasize waste, consumer culture and human impact on the natural environment. In these and many earthworks, change and the passing of time are major themes. Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) is typical in taking the subjects of decay, time and temporality as central components. Earth art draws awareness to instability, time, space, and entropy, and connects the viewer - emotionally and physically - to nature.

Installation Art

In an extension of the Post-Minimalist concern with site and expansion beyond the traditional art object, Installation art involved the creation of complex indoor environments that engaged the viewer as a sort of actor-participant. Bruce Nauman's installation works, which he began to create around 1968, shifted the focus from himself to the direct experience of the viewer. Echoing the mood of some Body art, Nauman's installations often encouraged feelings of entrapment, fear, dread, anxiety, and disorientation. For example, his Double Steel Cage Piece (1974) required visitors to find their way through narrow passageways and corridors. In a series of pieces based on the tightly constructed corridors, Nauman sometimes incorporated video cameras and monitors as a type of self-surveillance system. Such psychologically distressing works served as precursors to sculptures Nauman would create in the early 1980s, which were directly influenced by the experiences of political prisoners.

By 1974, Vito Acconci also began to move away from works that focused on his own body and experience. Acconci confronted the viewer in his installation environments, which were often accompanied by recordings of his own voice. In the 1980s, Acconci began constructing perverse house-like environments that disoriented and discomforted viewers as they walked through them, bringing to mind associations of the home and imprisonment, in works such as Bad Dream House (1988).

Later Developments

The variety of tendencies that the term Post-Minimalism encompassed endured throughout the 1970s. While declining in the 1980s, as traditional media such as painting made a return, it made an important contribution to the art of that decade by laying the foundations for work that addresses identity politics and issues of race, gender and sexuality. And, more recently, with the return to fashion of conceptual modes, artists of the Post-Minimalist generation have also experienced a renaissance.

Seemingly the 1980s sent Post-Minimalism underground, yet it remains alive today. This is largely due to the fact that artists who engage with any of its myriad strands, from aspects of performance to process to installation, must still engage with ideas that were addressed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Original content written by Julianne Cordray

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

. [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org website. Available from:
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Useful Resources on Post-Minimalism

Books
Websites
Articles
Videos
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972

By Lucy Lippard

Postminimalism into Maximalism: American Art 1966-1989

By Robert Pincus-Witten

Postminimalism

By Robert Pincus-Witten

Body Art/Performing the Subject

By Amelia Jones
History and Analysis of Post-Minimalist Performance Art and Body Art

Guggenheim Collection - Process Art

Images and Analyses of Process Art Sculptures

Guggenheim Collection - Site-Specific Art/Environmental Art

Images and Analyses of Site-Specific Works

UbuWeb - Film and Video

Comprehensive Source for Videos of Performance Art, Including Works by Richard Serra, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Robert Smithson, and Chris Burden

UbuWeb - Harald Szeemann

Catalogue for the 1969 Post-Minimalist Exhibition Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form

Post-Minimal to the Max

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
February 10, 2010

Art or Ad or What? It Caused a Lot of Fuss

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
July 24, 2009

Bringing the Soul Into Minimalism: Eva Hesse

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
May 12, 2006

Vito Acconci: Gladstone Gallery, New York, USA

By James Trainor
Frieze Magazine
September 2004

Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism emerged as a movement in New York in the 1960s, its leading figures creating objects which blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and were characterized by unitary, geometric forms and industrial materials. Emphasizing cool anonymity over the passionate expression of the previous generation of painters, the Minimalists attempted to avoid metaphorical associations, symbolism, and suggestions of spiritual transcendence.
ArtStory: Minimalism
Body Art
Body Art
Body Art
Body art is art form that uses the human body as its canvas. Tattoos and body piercings are the most common form of body art. Other types include branding, scarification, body shaping, full body tattoo and body painting. Body art can take a more extreme form in bodily mutilation and acts of physical endurance.
Body Art
Performance Art
Performance Art
Performance Art
Performance is a genre in which art is presented "live," usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the twentieth century, playing an important part in anarchic movements such as Futurism and Dada. It particularly flourished in the 1960s, when Performance artists became preoccupied with the body, but it continues to be an important aspect of art practice.
ArtStory: Performance Art
Process Art
Process Art
Process Art
When Harold Rosenberg coined the term "Action Painting," he was emphasizing the importance of not the artwork itself - the objet d'art - but the process by which the work was made. Thus, Process Art refers to the actions or, in some cases, the performance of creating a work of art. The actual term was popularized by Robert Morris for a 1968 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum.
Process Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual art describes an influential movement that first emerged in the mid-1960s and prized ideas over the formal or visual components of traditional works of art. The artists often challenged old concepts such as beauty and quality; they also questioned the conventional means by which the public consumed art; and they rejected the conventional art object in favor of diverse mediums, ranging from maps and diagrams to texts and videos.
ArtStory: Conceptual Art
Land Art
Land Art
Land Art
Land art, or Earth art, a term coined by artist Robert Smithson, refers to artworks from the 1960s and '70s that employed land and other natural elements. It is typical of a time when artists rejected the traditional art object, expanded definitions of sculpture, and sought to move art outside the conventional art world structure of galleries and museums.
ArtStory: Land Art
Lucy Lippard
Lucy Lippard
Lucy Lippard
Lucy Lippard is an American art scholar and curator who has focused on postmodern movements such as conceptual art, feminist theory, and land art.
Lucy Lippard
Eva Hesse
Eva Hesse
Eva Hesse
Eva Hesse was a major New York artist whose sculpture, assemblage, and installation brought issues of feminism and the body into Minimalism's formal vocabulary. She is heralded as one of the quintessential Post-Minimalist artists.
ArtStory: Eva Hesse
Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois was a French-American artist whose work added a feminist perspective to Surrealist themes of sex, childhood, and the uncanny. She is best known for her sculpture Fillette (1968) and her large-scale spider sculptures, such as Maman (1999).
ArtStory: Louise Bourgeois
Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman is a contemporary American artist concerned with language, process, manipulation, and the registers of irony. His work includes performance, video, installation, neon sculpture, and other materials.
ArtStory: Bruce Nauman
Surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism
Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.
ArtStory: Surrealism
Dada
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
ArtStory: Dada
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism is a broad term for a host of movements in early twentieth-century Germany and beyond, from Die Brücke (1905) and Der Blaue Reiter (1911) to the early Neue Sachlichkeit painters in the 1920s and '30s. Many Expressionists used vivid colors and abstracted forms to create spiritually or psychologically intense works, while others focused on depictions of war, alienation, and the modern city.
ArtStory: Expressionism
Robert Morris
Robert Morris
Robert Morris
Robert Morris is an American artist whose early L-beam and column sculptures were key works in Minimalism. His work also includes felt and fabric pieces, performance, body art, and earthworks, often with an emphasis on process and theatricality.
ArtStory: Robert Morris
Richard Serra
Richard Serra
Richard Serra
Richard Serra is an American Process and Minimalist artist. His sculptures have ranged from hurled drips of molten lead to gigantic steel pieces installed in public places.
ArtStory: Richard Serra
Arte Povera
Arte Povera
Arte Povera
Arte Povera - "poor art" or "impoverished art" - was the most influential European avant-garde of the 1960s. It numbered around a dozen Italian artists who often used commonplace materials that evoked a pre-industrial age - earth, rocks, clothing, paper and rope. The artists rejected abstract painting, and the references to modernity and technology in American Minimalism, and instead made sculpture which pointed to the past, and to experiences of locality.
ArtStory: Arte Povera
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
ArtStory: Jackson Pollock
Fluxus
Fluxus
Fluxus
Fluxus was an international network of "intermedia" artists of the 1960s who worked in fields ranging from music to performance to the visual arts. Taking their name from the Latin "to flow," Fluxus artists adopted an often anarchic and satirical approach to conventional forms of art, and their ideas paved the way for Conceptual art.
ArtStory: Fluxus
Vito Acconci
Vito Acconci
Vito Acconci
Vito Acconci is an American performance/installation artist who began performing in the late 1960s. More recently, he has shifted his focus to architecture and landscape design, particularly works that merge indoor and outdoor space.
Vito Acconci
Chris Burden
Chris Burden
Chris Burden
American performance artist Chris Burden is most known for his 1970s works that placed him in extreme danger, such as being shot in the arm by an assistant or being crucified on the back of a car.
ArtStory: Chris Burden
Richard Long
Richard Long
Richard Long
Richard Long is a British painter, sculptor, photographer and Land artist. Much of his work is considered a response to the natural environments he enters, incorporating mixed-media and various non-art elements such as landscape, rock, maps and text. In this respect, Long's work has been classified by some as Environmental art, rather than the dated Land art.
Richard Long
Gordon Matta-Clark
Gordon Matta-Clark
Gordon Matta-Clark
Gordon Matta-Clark was an American artist who is most widely know for his site-specific works. In his "building cuts" series, he removed sections - floors, ceilings, and walls - from abandoned buildings. In 1970, he co-founded Food in New York, a restaurant run entirely by artists. His parents were the artists Anne Clark and Roberto Matta.
Gordon Matta-Clark
Tony Cragg
Tony Cragg
Tony Cragg
Tony Cragg is a contemporary British visual artist and sculptor. His earlier works were made from found materials, such as discarded construction materials, and used household materials. In the 1970s, he created sculptures simply by stacking, splitting, and crushing materials. Cragg makes a point to say that his sculptures are made by him, and not constructed in factories.
Tony Cragg
Robert Smithson
Robert Smithson
Robert Smithson
Robert Smithson was an American artist best known for his innovations in Land and Earth Art. Smithson's large-scale projects employed earth and other natural resources to construct works that both manipulated and preserved the natural landscape. His most famous work is Spiral Jetty in Utah, constructed entirely from basalt, earth and salt.
ArtStory: Robert Smithson