What does Minimalism mean in art?
Rising to fame in 1950s America and peaking in popularity during the swinging sixties, Minimalism was an art movement that grew out of ideas expressed by Minimalist artists including Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, Frank Stella and Carl Andre.
Also known as “minimal art”, “literalist art” and “ABC Art”, Minimalist art is similar to Conceptualism in that it essentially focuses on simple, very basic elements with little to no resemblance of real world objects. The abstract idea is that art should be individual, unique and with its own reality; it should not merely be a replica or interpretation of something else.
In terms of aesthetics, this type of art is said to offer the highest form of beauty and purity. It is not pretending to be something it isn’t, which in many people’s minds leads it to represent desirable qualities such as honesty, simplicity, harmony and order. Typically, Minimalist artwork is composed of simple geometric shapes based on rectangles and squares. There are no people, trees, still-life scenes or landscapes. Indeed, as Frank Stella once said of his work, “What you see is what you see”.
In 1960s New York, many younger artists, especially those previously engaged in conceptual art, were emphatically renouncing recent art they thought had become old-fashioned, academic and stale. A wave of rediscovered styles and new influences led these artists to question the boundaries and conventions between different media. The new Minimalist art leaned towards the cool rather than the dramatic, and favoured anonymity over expressionism. The materials used in the works and their bold, emphatic style steered away from symbolism and emotion.
As the 1970s came and went, Minimalism had triumphed across America as well as Europe. Having been boosted by art dealers and museum curators worldwide, and enjoying critical acclaim across many specialist publications, Minimalism is a still a cherished movement still holding its own amongst the myriad styles of today.