What is minimalism?

Minimalism is an American born movement and is a term used to describe artwork that thrives on simplicity. Minimal artists typically reduced their work to incorporated the smallest number of colours, geometric shapes and  lines, often in repetitive patterns.

Minimalism was a reaction against the formal overkill and pretentiousness of Abstract Expressionism. It had roots in Pop art, Cubism, and Conceptual art.

Minimalist Art believed that eliminating the presence of the creator would allow the  viewer to truly judge the art for themselves.

When was it?

Minimal Art emerged as a movement in the 1950s and continued through the Sixties and Seventies.

There are examples of the Minimalist theory being exercised as early as the 18th century when Goethe constructed an Altar of Good Fortune made simply of a stone sphere and cube.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The 20th century saw the movement come into its own.

Who are the key figures within the movement?

From the 1920s artists such as Malevich and Duchamp produced works in the Minimalist vein but the movement is known chiefly by its American exponents such as Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Ellsworth Kelly and Donald Judd who reacted against Abstract Expressionism in their stark canvases, sculptures and installations.

Kazimir Malevich

Minimal art was mostly three-dimensional but the painter Frank Stella was an important Minimalist. His Black Paintings were first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959, inspiring many artists to turn away from the expressive art of the past.

Dan Flavin

Dan Flavin, born in New York in 1933, started working with fluorescent light as the primary part of his work in 1963. Like a true minimalist, he confined his work to the necessities and confined himself to a limited palette of red, blue, green, pink, yellow, ultraviolet and four different whites. He also limited his tubes to two, Four, Six and eight foot.

Using these materials Flavin went on to become known as one of the leading minimal artists.

Carl Andre

Carl Andre, Born September 1935 is also an American minimalist.  He is recognized for his ordered linear and grid format sculptures. His Sculptures range from large public works to more intimate tile patterns arranged on the floor of an expedition space.

One of Andre’s influences of this type of work is Minimalist Frank Stella

Frank Stella

Printmaker and painter Frank Stella was born on May 12, 1936 in Malden, Massachusetts.

Upon moving to New York City some years later, Stella reacted against the expressive use of paint by most painters of the abstract expressionist movement, instead finding himself drawn towards the “flatter” surfaces

Stella went on to marry Barbara Rose, later a well-known art critic, in 1961. Around this time he said that a picture was “a flat surface with paint on it – nothing more”

“What you see is what you see.”
Frank Stella (1936-), American painter, 1966. Critic Deborah Solomon and others have described this statement as the unofficial slogan of the Minimalist movement.

Here is an interview with Stella:

Minimalism Vs Abstract Expressionism

In comparison to Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism is a movement about the expression of the artists feelings though art. The exact opposite of what Minimalism is about. Abstract Expressionism is a mess on canvas compared to the clean cut nature of Minimalism

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