MINIMALISM OR THREE DIMENSIONAL ART AN EXLORATION OF THE ART OF CARL ANDRE(B 1935) DAN FLAVIN (1933-1996) DONALD JUDD (1928-1994) AND ROBERT MORRIS (B 1931) A NEW ART FORM THAT EMERGED IN NEW YORK IN THE 1960’S WHICH CHALLENGED MODERNIST ART. PART 1

This exploration of Minimalism will be a major piece of work spread over several weeks. Minimalism as an art form questioned the role of high Modernist art. The prophets of Modernism Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried and their contributions I will consider in a separate Post.

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Many commentators of Minimalism have considered their contributions particularly their consideration of spatial aspects together with its physicality. ” Their significance depends on the viewers engagement with them as physical objects that occupy the same space in the world as the viewer”. [1].

Scientific application to their work with precise and exact measurements in a repetitive  fashion were crucial to understanding  their work. ” All of these works consist of simple geometric forms, many repeat the same form in series and most are either painted a shade of grey , black or white”. [2].

Donald Judd and Robert Morris who wrote widely about their work delivering criticisms of Modernism and the role of Painting. It is the space between the objects and how they are displayed in Exhibitions. ” The deliberately ordered spatial relationships between the works themselves and the  gallery’s own spatial characteristics suggest that the exhibition design depends on a strong sense of the Exhibition”.[3].

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Both Judd and Morris whose work I have displayed here were concerned to create an Exhibition which showed how  the objects spatial aspects were prominent in the finished display . It was never about the objects themselves. ” The scripted arrangements of these works so central to the physical and mental experiments of constants and variables were also and continue to be, made new every time that the works were or are ,exhibited. the work was never about forms per se it was about arranging and experiencing the arrange of the forms in space”. [4].

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Alex Potts in his essay ‘Time and situation ‘ refers to Donald Judd’s work in considering the objects that Judd constructed as a unified whole. ” We need to b egin with one of Judd’s clearest eary statements about how a viewer experiences a work of art. The wholeness of the piece is primary  is primary as experienced first and directly”. [5].

Organisation and preparation was crucial to much of Judd’s work . ” As Judd puts it art must be as decisive as acts in Life, hopefully more so. So while art is made as one lives, the assertion of art depends on more organisation and attention that is usual in Living”. [6].

Some commentators like Anna Chave who I believe completely misunderstood three  dimensional work and adopted very reactionary views insisting on a power relationship. ” However to some Judd’s sculptures are linked metaphorically at least to aspects of modern US experience such as blandness , meaningless repition  , industrial Geometry  and the rhetoric of power”. [7]. This is a complete misreading of Judd’s work.

Carl Andre was another artist who considered himself a worker rather than an artist and like the others concentrated on Industrial objects. All of the artists I am considering worked with different materials , Judd with metal or steel , Morris with textured material while Flavin  preferred Glass.

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” Andre saw himself as an art worker , an artisan with the freedom to employ himself essentially as his own tool to produce goods that he exchanges for other peoples goods”. [8].

Art critics like Michael Archer considered the role of three dimensional art in the wider concept of artistic practices. ” The non- composed -non referential abstractness of minimalism offered considerable resistance to the standard methods of art appreciation.One was concerned with how its objects were made”. [9].

Flavin for instant used electric light and referred to his constructions as proposals. ” Flavin first used electric light in his constructions in 1961 moving to fluorescent tubes two years later with ‘The diagonal of May 25th 1963″.[10].

This art by the Minimalists was sometimes spread out on the floor and invited interactive participation unlike Modernist art which just involved presenting the art with  most Galleries putting up signs Do Not Touch. Andre encouraged people to walk around his sculpture and particularly children were mesmerised by his designs. ” Art on the floor had to be viewed not as something apart but one more thing in the viewers physical space”. [11]. It was as if the viewer was part of the constructions.

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Robert Morris like many of the minimalists dealt in different materials and it was Morris and Judd who wrote widely on these issues. ” Morris in ‘Notes on Sculpture’ proposes a work of sculpture as a gestaldt  object .That is simply a form whose total shape can be immediately apprehended by the viewer”.[12].

Dan Flavin had great respect for Vladimir Tatlin one of the great Revolutionary artists who emerged just after the Russian Revolution. ” Indeed Tatlin’s directive to cultivate real space and real materials was to become  during the 1960’s in America the source or point of departure for a new kind of sculpture which would have specifity and power of actual materials ,actual colours and actual space”[13].

Suzi Gabik points out in her review of minimalism how Flavin created his homage to Tatlin. “In 1964 Flavin produced a neon sculpture that was entitled ‘monument for V Tatlin”[14].

Gabik compares the minimalists to Piet Mondrian the great abstract painter of the early 1920’s who painted exact lines in a very tight space on canvass. They were geometrically perfected to exact measurements. I will consider the De Styll movement in a later post. ” The minimalists shared with Mondrian the belief that a work of Art should be completely conceived by the mind before its execution”.[15].

 Gabik continues with her comments on the minimalists. ” The Minimalists introduced an epistemological cube it stood as a commitment to clarity , conceptual rigour literalness and simplicity”.[16].

” one of the things that Minimalism hoped to achieve was a new interpretation of the goals of Sculpture”. [17].

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In this first part of my exploration of this revolution in art I have considered the contribution of Minimalism and how it would clash with the pre conceived ideas of Modernism as expressed by Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried.

FOOTNOTES

1) VARIETIES OF MODERNISM OPEN UNIVERSITY PG 219

2) DITTO PG 223

3) DITTO PG 224

4) DITTO PG 236

5) ALEX POTTS TIME AND SITUATION ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY PG 178

6) DITTO PG 179

7) MODERNISM IN DISPUTE PG 98

8) DITTO PG 98

9) ART SINCE 1960 MICHAEL ARCHER PG 52

10) DITTO PG 52

11) DITTO  PG 53

12) DITTO PG 58

13)  CONCEPTS OF MODERN ART MINIMALISM SUZI GABIK PG 244

14) DITTO PG 244

15) DITTO PG 245

16) DITTO PG 245

17) DITTO PG 250

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