A post-war Western society was the breeding ground of a fresh new style in the art world - minimalism. Its aim was to stretch and warp the limits of abstract art, proposing that art in itself should not be an imitation of any other thing - it should be an entire of its own right.
Minimalism contrasted other movements that used art as a way to express a certain object or feeling, such as classic landscapes or portraitures. Minimalist art wants the viewer to respond only to what is in front of them - 'what you see is what you get'. In contrast to the other branch of abstraction that was popular at the time - Abstract Expressionism, minimalism sought to remove all emotion, favouring simplicity, repetition, non-traditional material use and an impersonal tone. Some of the movements most important proponents included painters Frank Stella, Yves Klein and Mark Rothko and sculptors Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt.
Minimalism first emerged in the 1960s and was mostly fuelled by young artists of the time. Although it never proclaimed to be a movement, some young artists broke away from the Expressionist style popular at the time, feeling this method of creation was simply too personal. Instead they leaned towards an extreme abstraction. They believed that the artwork should not refer to anything but itself, a concept far and away from the abstract expressionist beliefs. The pure visual element of the artwork is the final and most important element.
Often minimalist artists favour repetitive patterns creating an ordered simplicity to the work. Minimalists believe that basic shape forms evoke certain responses in their viewership and are a powerful tool to command attention. As such minimalist work was often sculptural in nature. Although the results were often visually commanding they were criticised for eliminating complexity or expressivity in art practice.
Donald Judd 'Untitled' 1967 Photo Credit: MoMA
The leading artists known for their contributions to Minimalism include sculptor Donald Judd. His focus on the clarity of structure led to a serious of clean cut works which are an extension of the surrounding area. To reinforce the impersonal feel to minimalist work, Judd wanted to create mass produced-like objects so used materials such as iron, steel and plastic. Unlike traditional sculptors who displayed their work on a classic plinth, Judd positioned his works on the floor therefore they gained no extra height or framing from another structure. This resulted in the works being viewed in only their materialistic state. He coined to term ‘specific object’ meaning an object that is composed of self-sufficient elements, defined as neither painting nor sculpture.
Minimalism has evolved into a popular interior design trend in more recent years. The simple, yet powerful, stripped back essence of minimalism remains iconic and is a growing market. With people’s lives becoming more and more hectic and confused, a clutter free home is an appealing concept. Minimal artwork and minimal interior themes help to achieve a peaceful, zen-like area. Minimalism is seen as one of the stepping-stones leading towards conceptualism.
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