Minimalism


During my Theory Lecture, Minimalism was being used to bring up ideas around Frame, Process, Artist and Audience.

Hal foster in ‘The Crux of Minimalism” 1986 sees minimalism as something between two movements – a pivot point. America and British minimalism is very overt and a discursive movement which emerges as a reaction to:

  1. Formalism (Greenberg and Fried) discussing abstract expressionism.
  2. ‘Action Painting’ (Harold Rosenberg)

Rosenberg sees painting as a state for the artists discover, inner discovery and self-realisation. His reading of abstract expressionism plays on seeing the artist as an individual. The individual is a self-created man (an American idea).  Pollock becomes an icon of the time, seen as someone who ‘does it alone’. In 1960’s younger artists are becoming aware of seeing ‘the artist’ as a hero. This all plays into cold war context as the ‘freedom of individuals’ is something America want to promote at that time.

This idea of individualism started to reach breaking point and artist start to look LEFT politically. They are concerned with the focus of individual and start to look at a more socially context. What the model of the artist is in relation to audience? Is there a continuity between art and the world?

Abstract Expressionism vs Minimalism

‘Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue IV?’ 1969 by Barnett Newman
‘Untitled (E’) 1965 by Robert Ryman

We start to discuss what the differences between abstract expressionism and Minimalism are. Barnett Newman and Robert Ryman share a limit of a representational reference but there is also a radical break between these two. Is it just a further simplification of is there an important discontinuity?

Greenberg says that for him, Abstract painting has to assert itself as paint and as flat instead of the painting being representational or as a widow. Donald Judd (a serialism artist) questions how far Greenberg is willing to go with his integrity of the medium by questioning what belongs to the medium and what’s outside of its limits. If the logic is that the work is the medium then surely we could just place a blank canvas in a room? BUT Greenberg and Michael Fried say this isn’t right. Fried argues the formalist painting is about a dynamic flatness but should never be the object itself,the work has to become something new. Greenberg is saying that the work is still an aesthetic space and needs to be more than a literal/material thing. However, Robert Ryman’s work instead of it being an illusionistic space it accepts its own ‘objectness’. It understands itself as an object, the work has dialogue with its surrounding. Ryman makes a point of how he hangs his work, how its attached to wall becomes a part of it. This is continued in Jo Baer ‘Grey Wraparound Triptych (Blue Green, Lavender) 1970, as he starts to think about how the side of the work becomes part of it. Its an OBJECT. Its not just a visual optical field. When I’m looking at it I’m no longer just an eye but I’m a body in physical space. We occupy the same space as the object. Its no longer just an aesthetic space. So Ryman is now an object in space where as Newmann is an optical space.

‘Wraparound Triptych (Blue Green, Lavender)’ 1970 by Jo Baer Grey

‘Picture’ vs ‘object’

Robert Morris starts to talk about how the work becomes a function of space and light. You become more reflective because your aware of your body in that space. The reflectivity is the audience looking at themselves in the space, you and the work. But the object becomes one thing in a whole series of relationships. It’s not just about the relationship between the audience and the object and therefore the borderline between the work and the world becomes blurred. If the whole situation is involved then the walls and when you enter the room could be part of the work? Similar to Morris talking about relationships moving externally. Kishio Suga lays out plastic sheeting. The lighting becomes part of the work. Its contingent on the changes happening around the work. The transience of the environment is important to the work itself. Fried starts to be bothered by what the limits of the art is as he no longer knows what to judge as work. He is having a crisis of judgment as the artist is no longer having clear mastery over the work.

‘Situated Underlying Existence’ 2014 by Kishio Suga

Work as Prop

Morris sees minimalist work as prop, it’s not self-contained by is a way to leader to other things. In his own work, it becomes about the audience interacting with the work. The work becoming a prop allows something to happen which is over and above its physical qualities therefore the object becomes a mediator which allows different things to happen which wouldn’t if it wasn’t there. Yoko Ono Cut piece- audience had scissors and could cut clothes off. She set the stage to see what would happen, there was a possibility. There is a notion of potentiality rather than actuality which has influenced participatory practises with audience engaging.

‘Cut Piece’ 1964 by Yoko Ono

Minimalism brings idea of viewer becoming part of the work. Critiques were questioning what the viewer actually is? Are they a general category? Where as Greenberg saw a eye, minimalism starts to talk about a body viewing a work. But how can sex, class etc be considered? How can we think about what the view is? Who is looking at it etc?

Santiego Sierra created the opportunity to make ‘133 persons paid to have their hair dyed blond’ when invited to participate Venice Biennale. But Venice has lots of illegal migrants therefore Sierra became interested in gap between illegal immigrants and art world. So he invited migrants to be paid to have hair died and were told to sell their stuff inside the exhibition space. This might have made spectacle of this group of people but it does question who is the ‘viewer’ of art? Is art only accessible to a particular strata of society.

Please see: Playing with situation

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