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Minimalism or Minimal Art - Art History 101 Basics

Mid-1960s to Present

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Minimalism or Minimal Art is a form of abstraction. It focuses on the most essential and elemental aspects of an object.

The art critic Barbara Rose explained in her groundbreaking article "ABC Art," Art in America (October-November 1965), that this "empty, repetitous, uninflected" aesthetic could be found in the visual arts, dance and music. (Merce Cunningham and John Cage would be examples in dance and music.)

Minimal art aims to reduce its content to rigorous clarity. It may try to rid itself of evocative affect, but it does not always succeed. Agnes Martin's faint graphite lines drawn on pale flat surfaces seem to radiate with human delicacy and humility. In a small room with low light, they can be exceptionally moving.

How Long Has Minimalism Been a Movement?

Minimalism reached its peak during the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, but many of its practioners are still alive and well today. Dia Beacon, a museum of mainly Minimalist pieces, exhibits a permanent collection of the best known artists in the movement. For example, Michael Heizer's North, East, South, West (1967/2002) is permanently installed on the premises.

Some artists, such as Richard Tuttle and Richard Serra, are now considered Post-Minimalists.

What Art the Key Characteristics of Minimalism?

  • Clarity and simplicity of form.
  • No narrative.
  • No anecdotal content or references.
  • Emphasis on pure shapes.
  • Often monochromatic surfaces.

Best Known Minimalists:

  • Agnes Martin
  • Donald Judd
  • Michael Heizer
  • Robert Morris
  • Robert Serra
  • Richard Tuttle
  • Tony Smith
  • Ann Truit
  • Ronald Bladen
  • Dan Flavin
  • Sol LeWitt
  • Robert Mangold
  • Dorothea Rockburne

Suggested Reading:

Battcock, Gregory (ed.). Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology.
New York: Dutton, 1968.

Dia:Beacon

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