MINMALISM OR THREE DIMENSIONAL ART.AN EXPLORATION 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 2

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 I will now consider the respective statements and arguments of both the Minimalists and the High Modernists Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried.

” Judd who began as a painter wrote in his 1965 essay ‘Specific Objects’ that much art being made could no longer be described as either painting or Sculpture. He termed it instead 3 Dimensional art”.[1].

Carl Andre a great believer in Interactive art advocated Art spread out on the floor as part of the spatial area of the Gallery . ” Art on the floor had to be viewed not as something apart but as one more thing in the viewers physical space”.[2].

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These geometric shapes were often combined with other disciplines like dance and writing to challenge the modernist theory of autonomy. ” A formal simplicity or reduction to a shared set of repeated geometric forms is evident in all these contemporary works”. [3].

All the artists I have discussed were concerned to make sure that spatial considerations were paramount and therefore worked to achieve a balance where their art could be displayed. Arrangements of the objects in the Gallery or exhibition were paramount. ” Absence and dead space had to give way to a  repeated  sequence of physical and visualised images of units that reflected the artists process of thinking about and measuring out the arrangements on the wall of the Exhibition space”. [4].

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As Michael Archer has suggested Minimalist Art represented a development of sculptural forms to direct painting as another form. ” Minimalism a movement most usually identified with sculptural endeavour can be understood in part at least as a continuation of painting by other means”. [5].

Donald Judd wrote widely in his essays on the role of Minimalist Art. He engaged in a ferocious battle with Greenberg and Fried who rejected the whole concept of art like Minimalism which challenged the basic tenets of Modernism. ” For Judd the blank look of his art was symptomatic of what he saw as the growing irrelevance of traditional aesthetic attitudes. His work was simply and formally pared down because of a wish not to employ compositional effects”.[6].

Thomas Crow argued in his book the Rise of the Sixties that what Judd and others were concerned with was actual spatial developments and placing objects in space. No more illusion but real physical objects in space. ” Asserting that actual space is more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface. His aim was the defeat of Illusionism and he regarded any internal relations of parts not directly directed by the shape of the whole to be illusionistic”. [7].

” Minimalism reinforced an idea of progress in art which verged on the scientific and likewise of an art which moved forward by appropriating methods and ideas from other disciplines “.[8].

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Minimalism according to Judd was new revolutionary application of though out theories that related to a consistent materialist view of the world. ” In ‘specific objects ‘Judd wasn’t proposing a new kind of work which was neither painting or sculpture so much as acknowledging its wide ranging presence in art”. [9].

Robert Morris also attacked the role of painting in his writing ‘Notes on Sculpture’. He also devised other work involving the performance artist Carolee Scheenman. ”  In his notes on Sculpture Morris not only refuted the significance of painting in the genesis of present day sculpture he stated that these concerns of sculpture have been for sometime not only distinct but hostile to those of painting”. [10]. ” Morris as well as criticising  the use of colour and the relief format  dismissed as imagistic the use of repetitive modular units and linked the redundant cubist aesthetic with the specific object”. [11].

Dan Flavin  who worked totally in glass and talked of his work as ‘proposals’. It was suggested by some commentators that his work as similarity with painting. ” There are other reasons for likening Flavin’s work to painting. one is that the work is being attached to the wall (in some instances). Another is that Flavin actually takes over the place of painting but sometimes also its shape”. [12].

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Judd’s stacks are very much his trademark ,although it is not often realised that Donald Judd started out as a painter  and was heavily influenced by Abstract expressionists like Rothko , Pollock and others. ” His trade mark stacks( Donald Judd) .In these works each unit is identical with identical intervals between each unit”. [13].

As David Batchelor observes in his book on Minimalism Judd uses separateness as a virtue. ” Wholeness is not a literal part of Judd’s work. The volumes of his three dimensional work have no mass”. [14]. ” The aim it seems was to explore colour in a purely empirical way without recourse to conventional ordering systems” .[15].

Dan Flavin one of the Minimalists I have not concentrated on in such detail offered comments on his own work. ” I have no stylistic or structural development of any significance within my proposal- only shifts in partative emphasis -modifying and addable without intrinsic change “.[16].

Commenting on the role of Fried and Greenberg Batchelor establishes their hostility to the Minimalists work. ” A strong feature of three dimensional work under discussion here is its tendency to derive from or identify with or to parallel work in other media. Judd and painting Morris and Dance. For this reason alone it is nor surprising that writers such as Greenberg and Fried were hostile to the new work”. [17].

Michael Fried a disciple of Clement Greenberg now enters the fray. He sets out to defend Greenberg’s heritage as the supreme example of High Modernism . ” When in 1967 Michael Fried published ‘Art and Objecthood’ , his sustained attack on the ‘Literalist’ work of Judd , Morris et al was premised on the two articles of faith in Modernist theory : The necessary autonomy of the various arts from one another and the unambiguous distinction between art and non art”. [18].

The Minimalists could trace their development back to the ready made’s of Marcel Duchamp who  set out to challenge the concept of what art represents .Greenberg had taken a very hostile attitude and referred to Duchamp’s work as theatrical . Anything that did not fit into Modernist theory was treated with extreme hostility. ” The obvious example of the work of art which is both merely an object but at the same time more than an object is the ready made whose status as art is supplied by a nominal act of displacement”. [19].

Fried again poses the question in a rhetorical fashion to Judd, Morris Andre and Flavin. ” Is it really the case that painting and sculpture have developed in isolation from one another in the twentieth century”. [20].

The minimalists response was  to  denounce Fried and Greenberg who had set themselves on a pedestal to judge what is good and bad art. ” Judd’s hostility towards the writing of Greenberg and Fried is difficult to miss. His own style of spare and unornamented writing is both the corollary of his art but also the negation of what he called Fried’s pedantic pseudo philosophical analysis “. [21].

Dan Flavin made fun of Fried and Greenberg and like the others was extremely critical of   their writing and Art criticism. ” For Flavin Friedberg and Greenfield were just presumptuous , self appointed , self indulgent self inflicting super serious footnotable pious promo-proto -art historical polemicists”. [22].

” Modernist Criticism had come to  be seen as defensive , closed and managerial more rigidly self serving than rigorously self conscious and more prescriptive than perceptive”. [23].

Judd , Morris , Flavin and Andre had seen through the arrogant attitude of Modernist theory as represented by Fried and Greenberg , who have adopted a real arrogant view of Minimalist art which they reject. In a future posting I Intend to critically analyse the contributions of Greenberg and Fried.

In this rather lengthy post I have tried to explain the role of three Dimensional art which set out to show the limitations of Painting and sculpture and change or alter our perception of Art today. Minimalism to me represented a scientific and materialist approach to art. Its challenge to Modernist criticism has stood the test of time and like Art and Language , Conceptual art , Photo Realism , Video and Installation art it has shown how  art might develop in the 21st Century.

FOOTNOTES

1) ART SINCE 1960 THAMES AND HUDSON MICHAEL ARCHER PG 45

2) DITTO PG 53

3) VARIETIES OF MODERNISM OPEN UNIVERSITY PG 217

4) DITTO PG 232

5) ART SINCE 1960 THAMES AND HUDSON MICHAEL ARCHER PG 44

6) DITTO PG 46

7) THE RISE OF THE SIXTIES THOMAS CROW PG 141

8) CONCEPTS OF MODERN ART THAMES AND HUDSON PG 262

9) MINIMALISM DAVID BATCHELOR PG 16

10) DITTO PG 23

11) DITTO PG 23

12) DITTO PG 32

13) DITTO PG 42

14) DITTO PG 44

15) DITTO  PG 45

16) DITTO PG 54

17) DITTO PG 64

18) DITTO PG 65

19) DITTO PG 65

20) DITTO PG 66

21) DITTO PG 67

22) DITTO PG 67

23)  DITTO PG 67

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