The steel and the space, or the object and the void, become one and the same.
Richard Serra Signature

Summary of Post-Minimalism

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 & Accomplishments

  • 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.

Overview of Post-Minimalism

Post-Minimalism Image

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.

Key Artists

  • Joseph Beuys was a German multi- and mixed-media artist best known for incorporating ideas of humanism, social philosophy and politics into his art. Beuys practiced everything from installation and performance art to traditional painting and "social sculpture." He was continually motivated by the belief of universal human creativity.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sol LeWitt was an American artist commonly associated with the Minimalist and Conceptual movements. He rose to prominence in the 1960s with the likes of Rauschenberg, Johns and Stella, and his work was included in the famous 1966 exhibit Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum. LeWitt's art often employed simple geometric forms and archetypal symbols, and he worked in a variety of media but was most interested in the idea behind the artwork.
  • Much of Richard Long's 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.
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Do Not Miss

  • 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.
  • Light and Space is an art movement founded in the 1960s that was connected to several different contemporary movements including minimalism, op-art, and geometric abstraction. The California-based movement focused on creating works related to light, volume, and scale through installations.
  • 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.
  • The artistic history of the US stretches from indigenous art and Hudson River School into Contemporary art. Enjoy our guide through the many American movements.

Important Art and Artists of Post-Minimalism

The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, (Window or Wall Sign) (1967)

Artist: Bruce Nauman

This seminal work was created in the studio Nauman established in an abandoned grocery store in San Francisco and modeled after the neon advertisement signs nearby. It acts as an advertisement of a different kind. Its colorful, circular text proclaims the words of the title: "The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths." It is characteristic of Nauman's early neon works, and typical of the tone of dry satire in much of his oeuvre. Commenting on high art in the materials of low culture and advertising, it sets up a clash that questions old assumptions about the purpose of art and artists, like are artists just ordinary salesmen? One might say that the piece is Post-Minimalist simply by virtue of standing at the borders of so many different styles and approaches of the period, borrowing from Pop art's interest in advertising, and Conceptual art's interest in language.

A Line Made by Walking (1967)

Artist: Richard Long

A Line Made by Walking is highly characteristic of the conceptual Earth art created by British artist Richard Long. In making a line across the grass by the simple act of walking, Long creates a type of drawing-without-drawing, doing away completely with the conventional tools and using instead his body and nature. Abandoning the traditional art object in this way is typical of Post-Minimalism, as is the way in which Long's line draws attention to the passing of time and the specific, fleeting moment in which the line was made.

Verb List (1967-68)

Artist: Richard Serra

Although usually regarded as an artist's statement (akin to a private, reflective diary entry), Verb List might also be regarded as the artist's chronological, aesthetic agenda, setting out his subsequent development in sculpture. It also amounts to a catalogue of the creative procedures employed by process artists linked to Post-Minimalism. If the 'to' verbs denote acts already accomplished, and the 'of' verbs are those yet to be done, Verb List may also be viewed as a shorthand, visual retrospective of Serra's entire career, compressing past, present and future into a single material object. Like a map, or a theoretical diagram, Verb List finally 'stands in' as a visual and conceptual proxy for something more physically tangible, or virtually touchable—sculpture itself. Serra's later, monumental walls in steel ultimately come to embody, in more abstract and open-ended terms, what the artist has chosen to conjure here in the 'mind's eye' of the beholder, indeed by way of strictly linguistic medium.

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Content compiled and written by Julianne Cordray

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Post-Minimalism Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Julianne Cordray
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 21 Jan 2012. Updated and modified regularly
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