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Minimalism

Minimalism

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
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Identify the influences of the development of Minimalism.

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Tutorial

what's covered
Today's lesson is about Minimalism. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, identify the influences of Minimalism, and identify examples of Minimalist artwork. Minimalism was a reaction against what was seen at the time as the overly fussy and emotional content of Abstract Expressionism. This lesson will cover:
  1. Die
  2. Concrete Blocks
  3. 3 X 11 Hollow Rectangle

The art that you're going to look at today dates from between 1962 and 2008.


1. Die

As its name implies, Minimalism is a reduction of form to its absolute essentials. Stylistically, Minimalism is stark simplicity. It was influenced by Japanese, de Stijl, and the International Style. There's an emphasis on rectilinear lines.

term to know

Minimalism
A movement in postwar art that seeks to reduce forms down to their most basic elements, usually emphasizing rectilinear shapes such as cubes.
As artwork becomes more and more Minimalistic, it becomes even more important that the concept behind the work of art, as expressed in the artist's writings, becomes clear. The experience of the work also becomes important for the same reason. This idea of concept over form eventually became the defining characteristic of the conceptual art movement.

Minimalist artists of the 1960s were reacting against what they thought was an excessive extension of the artist's personality in the works of abstract expressionists. Their approach was to make art non-representational, neutral in color, geometric, and stripped of traces of motion or meaning.

A great example of this is Tony Smith's Die:

Die by Tony Smith1962/1968Steel
Die by Tony Smith
1962/1968
Steel

It's a six by six-foot cube of steel. Its dimensions were supposedly based on the human body a la Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. It demonstrates a balance in which the work of art is smaller than a monument but larger than what would be considered a simple object. It was intended to be interacted with, in that viewers can move around it and touch it, and as a reference point by which viewers can experience themselves and their surroundings by the relativity to the sculpture.

big idea
Minimalism was a reaction against what was seen at the time as the overly fussy and emotional content of Abstract Expressionism.


2. Concrete Blocks

It's important to reiterate that the idea behind Minimalist art is quite often essential to understanding it. Minimalism's influence on architecture or in Scandinavian furniture design, for example, results in buildings and objects that can be appreciated for their simplicity and adherence to form following function, which is an idea that found traction with the International Style in architecture. Art for appreciation doesn't have that functional quality to it.

Donald Judd's Concrete Blocks, like Smith's Die sculpture, undermine the myth, in their view, of artistic originality by the fact that they contracted foundries to produce these works, rather than create them themselves.

One of Judd's Concrete Blocks:

Untitled by Donald Judd1980-1984Concrete
Untitled by Donald Judd
1980-1984
Concrete

think about it
What makes a concrete block a work of art?

The answer is in how it relates to the idea that inspired it.

For Judd's blocks, their location is important as well, as they reflect the starkness of the Marfa, Texas countryside. So to move the objects from their location would be to change their meaning. This idea of concept and experience is very important within Minimalistic art.


3. 3 X 11 Hollow Rectangle

Within Judd's and Carl Andre's (pictured below) work, there's also an idea of seriality, or repetition of form, in which the importance of each discrete element is made manifest by its relationship to the corresponding parts.

term to know

Seriality
An art movement, style or technique that uses modules or systems. 
This particular piece of art is composed of multiple identical pieces of lumber:

3x11 Hollow Rectangle by Carl Andre2008Wood (cedar)
3x11 Hollow Rectangle by Carl Andre
2008
Wood (cedar)

They're arranged in such a way that they're collectively significant but independently meaningless. The ratio and repetitive harmony of this artwork only work because it contains exactly the right number of elements, and each element is the correct size. To lose one would result in a complete lack of cohesion.

summary
Now that you've gone through the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you identify the influences of Minimalism? Can you identify examples of Minimalist artwork? Minimalism was a reaction against what was seen at the time as the overly fussy and emotional content of Abstract Expressionism. You saw three examples of this: Die, Concrete Blocks', and 3 X 11 Hollow Rectangle.

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Ian McConnell

Terms to Know
Minimalism

A movement in postwar art that seeks to reduce forms down to their most basic elements, usually emphasizing rectilinear shapes such as cubes.

Seriality

An art movement, style or technique that uses modules or systems.