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Minimalism

Frank Stella
The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II, 1959
Enamel on canvas
230.5 x 337.2 cm (90.7 x 132.8 in.)
© 2023 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Minimalism is a type of abstract art, characterized by clean lines, geometric forms, and a reduction of visual elements to their essential components. While minimalist art may not always convey overt or obvious meanings associated with the artist's intentions or emotions, it does not mean that it lacks depth or significance. Minimalism often encourages viewers to engage with the artwork on a sensory or perceptual level, offering a direct and immediate experience that is free from extraneous elements. By stripping away unnecessary visual elements, minimalist art emphasizes the inherent qualities of the artwork itself, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in its visual, spatial, and material aspects.

In 1959, Frank Stella made his first appearance in the New York contemporary art scene, participating in 16 American Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, New York with a series of monochromatic pinstriped Black Paintings. The stripes in the paintings were achieved by revealing the raw canvas in between the minimal brushworks, resulting in a visually bold and impactful composition. Stella soon gained recognition for his hard-edged minimalist paintings and the exhibition marked the beginning of the artist’s influential practice as a prominent contributor to minimalism at the age of 23.

Robert Morris
Untitled, 1965, reconstructed 1971
Mirror glass and wood
Each cube: 91.4 × 91.4 × 91.4 cm (36 × 36 × 36 in.)
Overall: Dimensions variable
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020
Tate, London

Minimalism can also be seen in other forms of art, such as sculpture, where it is characterized by the use of simple forms, such as squares and cubes, and the creation of space through the repetition of identical units. Minimalist sculpture often employs raw, factory-made materials to create linear or grid-like patterns that highlight the interplay between the artwork and its surrounding space. Artists such as Robert Morris contributed to pioneer minimalist movement in sculpture alongside Donald Judd, emphasizing on the fundamental elements of sculpture and their rejection of traditional artistic conventions. Morris’ mirrored cubes for example pushed the boundaries of materials and perception, engaging viewers in a self-reflective process as they confronted their own reflection while looking at the artwork.

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