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Minimalism

Started: Early 1960s

Ended: Late 1960s

Minimalism Timeline

Quotes

"When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations."
Sol LeWitt
"Making art is complicated because the categories are always changing. You just have to make your own art, and whatever categories it falls into will come later."
Frank Stella
"I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct."
Richard Serra
"As I have said many times, for me an artist is a person who says he's an artist, and an artwork is what an artist says is an artwork."
Carl Andre
"There's information and there's the object; there's the sensing of it; there's the thinking that connects to process. It's on different levels. And I like using those different levels."
Robert Morris
"No to transcendence and spiritual values, heroic scale, anguished decisions, historicizing narrative, valuable artifact, intelligent structure, interesting visual experience."
Robert Morris
"The steel and the space, or the object and the void, become one and the same."
Richard Serra
"I like art as thought better than art as work. I've always maintained this. It's important to me that I don't get my hands dirty. It's not because I'm instinctively lazy. It's a declaration: art is thought."
Dan Flavin

KEY ARTISTS

Carl AndreCarl Andre
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Dan FlavinDan Flavin
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Robert IrwinRobert Irwin
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Donald JuddDonald Judd
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Kenneth NolandKenneth Noland
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Richard SerraRichard Serra
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More Top Artists

"A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself. It shouldn't be concealed as part of a fairly different whole."

Donald Judd Signature

Synopsis

Minimalism emerged in New York in the early 1960s among artists who were self-consciously renouncing recent art they thought had become stale and academic. A wave of new influences and rediscovered styles led younger artists to question conventional boundaries between various media. The new art favored the cool over the "dramatic": their sculptures were frequently fabricated from industrial materials and emphasized anonymity over the expressive excess of Abstract Expressionism. Painters and sculptors avoided overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works. By the end of the 1970s, Minimalism had triumphed in America and Europe through a combination of forces including museum curators, art dealers, and publications, plus new systems of private and government patronage. And members of a new movement, Post-Minimalism, were already challenging its authority and were thus a testament to how important Minimalism itself became.

Key Ideas

Minimalists distanced themselves from the Abstract Expressionists by removing suggestions of biography from their art or, indeed, metaphors of any kind. This denial of expression coupled with an interest in making objects that avoided the appearance of fine art led to the creation of sleek, geometric works that purposefully and radically eschew conventional aesthetic appeal.
The post-Sputnik era revived active interest in Russian Constructivism. The Constructivist approach led to the use of modular fabrication and industrial materials in preference to the craft techniques of traditional sculpture. The readymades of Marcel Duchamp were also inspirational examples of the employment of prefabricated materials. Based on these sources, Minimalists created works that resembled factory-built commodities and upended traditional definitions of art whose meaning was tied to a narrative or to the artist.
The use of prefabricated industrial materials and simple, often repeated geometric forms together with the emphasis placed on the physical space occupied by the artwork led to some works that forced the viewer to confront the arrangement and scale of the forms. Viewers also were led to experience qualities of weight, height, gravity, agility or even the appearance of light as a material presence. They were often faced with artworks that demanded a physical as well as a visual response.
Minimalists sought to break down traditional notions of sculpture and to erase distinctions between painting and sculpture. In particular, they rejected the formalist dogma espoused by the critic Clement Greenberg that placed limitations on the art of painting and privileged artists who seemed to paint under his direction. The Minimalists' more democratic point of view was set out in writings as well as exhibitions by their leaders Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, and Robert Morris.

Beginnings

Minimalism Image

Early Modernist Inspirations

In New York City in the mid 1950s, young artists like Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Dan Flavin were painting in the dominant Abstract Expressionist vein but were drifting from it toward new directions inspired by a freshened knowledge of recent European art. Works by members of the Dutch De Stijl group, the Russian Constructivists, and the German Bauhaus were shown in New York City museums and galleries. All three groups had pioneered new definitions of the visual arts by going far beyond traditional painting and sculpture.

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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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