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The word Minimalism

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    The word Minimalism is often used, and more often misused in various social and cultural circles. People are frequently heard using it at an art gallery, or an exhibition of sorts, sometimes within houses while exclaiming on architecture of a certain kind, and at times, even when commenting on interior design or furniture. Therefore, the popularity of this term is slightly high compared to that of other terms that originated in the art fraternity like that of impressionism or cubism.

    However, although a part of everyday speech, the very tenets of Minimalism are confused to a large extent by those who bring it up. Minimalism at times, even takes on a derogatory undertone when referring to something that is sparse and not up to the mark. Far, far from it, the actual world of minimalism is extremely varied and exquisite in its own unique way.To begin with, Minimalism started off, not as a school of art or architecture, but very simply as the philosophy of Minimalism itself.

    It advocated centering life around a few important elements rather than an array of matters or issues. Anybody who believed in this philosophy was definitely easily recognizable, in that they working towards creating a life with the very essentials alone. It is this basic philosophy that was translated into an art, into architecture, and interior design by artists and even performers, the world over. In the performing world, Minimalism came to define and describe the plays of Samuel Beckett, the works of Robert Bresson and the short stories of Raymond Carver.

    Taking minimalism a step further was Colin Chapman with his automobile designs. Minimalism also pervaded into the world of music and began a movement that comprised repetition and iteration in composition. Famous for this work are composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, and Terry Riley.Minimalism began to have its influence on the world, starting in the 1950s.

    The movement was definitely one that started post World War II and was perceived and received most strongly in the United States of America. It was a distinct blend and yet also served as a bridge between modernism and post-modernism, Having started in the Fifties, Minimalism went on to create a wave in the Sixties and Seventies as well. Thriving on simplicity of content and form, the interesting thing about Minimalism is that it was often devoid of personal expression in large quantities. The movement aimed at intriguing the viewer, goading him into an experience that he could make on his own, and completing it by himself, without having to worry about any external stimuli of any kind that could have included variations in composition, color, theme and creation.

    Minimalism of course, made its appearance in earlier works as well. For example, in the case of Goethe who built what he called an Altar of Good Fortune. The altar consisted of nothing but a stone sphere and a cube. In the twentieth century however, minimalism began to have more of an impact and many artists began to focus on the concept.

    Several works were produced by the most famous of Minimalists – Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Ellsworth Kelly and Donald Judd, even Malevich and Duchamp.Critics are of the opinion that minimalist work was a blatant display of the above artists’ indignation at the movement of Abstract Expressionism. This was largely evident in the stark canvases that were present, the sculptures and the installations. Critics were also able to compare the work to several other movements that occurred at fairly the same time – movements such as Conceptual Art, Pop Art and Land Art.

    Minimalism was compared to Conceptual Art and found similar in that the finished work was supposed to exist solely in order to convey a theory or a message. A parallel was also drawn between Minimalism and Pop Art after observing the common ground of impersonal work that the two shared. Land Art on the other hand was compared to Minimalism due to its similarity in construction of similar shapes.Radical as it was, one of the first things that Minimalism did was to completely reject the concerns of the Abstract Expressionist movement that preceded Minimalism.

    It was evident that Minimalism obviously had a history to it and was not emerging out of nowhere. Interestingly enough it was rising out of the Abstract Expressionist movement itself but it had taken care to abandon the very expressionism of this generation’s art form. All the qualities that the previous movement pedestalized such as structure, nature, etc only helped to pave the way for Minimalism. Another factor that influenced the existence of Minimalism was Pop Art and the way it embraced all forms of culture that was even remotely popular.

    This movement was the beginning of everyday things in art. Pop Art used anything and everything and used material objects as the content for its structure and art work. In retrospect, critics point out how artists who worked at the very beginning of the twentieth century then went on to influence the minimalist style.The qualities that set Minimalism apart begin with a characteristic style where single or repeated geometric forms are used.

    There is a deliberate lack of expression in Minimalist art, with no trace of emotion or intuitive decision making and thus little about the artist is revealed in the work. Factory-manufactured or shop-bought materials such as bricks or tiles are frequently used as the medium for the work or it is built by skilled workers following the artist’s instructions (as with Judd’s sculpture). Minimal art does not refer to anything beyond its literal presence. The materials used are not worked to suggest something else; color (if used) is also non-referential, i.

    e if a dark color is used, this does not mean the artist is trying to suggest a somber mood. Minimalist art directly engages with the space it occupies. The sculpture is carefully arranged to emphasize and reveal the architecture of the gallery, often being presented on walls, in corners, or directly onto the floor, encouraging the viewer to be conscious of the space. Less is surely more as far as minimalism is concerned.

    Minimalist artists did not feel that by paring the work down to simple forms they created a less rich experience for the viewer. Quite the contrary, they believed that they were creating the possibility for a more direct and pure relationship between the viewer and the work. [1]  As an art form, Minimalism went on to open up a whole new world. Several works emerged after this philosophy – works of art that showed basic forms, in distinct colors and shapes.

    Adding to this image were lines, textures, hues or even the absence of all the above. The gradual reduction in all art forms and the way in which the bare essentials were displayed came to be an abstract and beautiful sight in itself. The beauty of these art forms lay in the fact that any viewer, irrespective of whether he or she was willing to interpret the work, would still be able to enjoy it. Minimalist art work came to be recognized for what it was.

    What the person saw, was often what he got. It did not necessarily represent anything or signify certain concepts.The world and its viewers were definitely not used to this. People were accustomed to comparing art with life, to note if art reflected life or vice versa, to constantly interpret in several hundred ways, a single work of art.

    With minimalism however, this problem did not arise. It never made any reference to any work – living or alive, any person, or object. It in fact, was not a symbol for any external reality. The viewer was not offered a choice in this regard and was left to deal with the work alone, no paraphernalia of any kind.

    The reality of Minimalism lay in the work and maybe the fabric on which it was on. It did stop there. In the words of Frank Stella, “What you see is what you see.” It was after all minimalist, even in interpretation.

    Minimalist art was definitely abstract in quality and turned away in a new direction, completely away from that of the previous generation’s work of art. Innovators in the field flourished in the 1960s and 1970s.Minimalist art did not choose to exalt the artist. Quite the contrary, the focus was neither on the viewer but on the image itself.

    The objects were treated in such a way that they were impersonal and as neutral as possible. This was simply so that the viewer could have an absolutely pure reaction to the art, all by him/herself.Minimalist artists were also being influenced by the work of the Constructivists. The work of the Constructivists, interestingly, appeared almost 50 years before Minimalism was even heard of, in Russia.

    Another area where Minimalist art in particular gains its inspiration form is that of European artists who assembled found objects. Artists like Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi are two examples. Their works influenced minimalism in such a way that minimalist art also began to be about assembling. Most times, the piece was designed by an artist, but in all probability was put together by skilled craftsmen.

    This did however cause an uproar to which the art fraternity pointed out that a similar phenomenon occurred in the world of architecture. Just as architects laid out the plan which was then put together by masons, steel workers and electricians, so it was in the world of art.A name that is literally worshipped in the Minimalist world is that of Frank Philip Stella who is an American painter. This significant figure in minimalism was greatly influenced by the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline.

    Soon enough however, he found himself being drawn to the works of the likes of Barnett Newman. Minimalism had found one of its heroes in this man.  Frank Stella’s works were clearly set apart from the rest of his peers. He turned the limelight on the object turned picture and he only chose to call his work “a flat surface with paint on it”.

    Frank Stella is also famous for his work where he uses regular bands of black paint and uses extremely thin white pinstripes of the white canvas itself as a separation.  Stella’s influence on other painters was colossal to say the least and these paintings were an important influence on the development of minimalist sculpture.Frank Stella’s Harran II, is definitely a historical and significant work of art that evidently, cannot be described in words! (Frank Stella’s ‘Harran II’, 1967. Polymer and fluorescent polymer paint on canvas, 120 x 240 inches.

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum);A famous American artist who came to be known for his work in Minimalism was Barnett Newman. He was seen as one of the major figures in abstract expressionism and one of the foremost of the color field painters. Some of his most famous works include Adam and Eve, Uriel, Abraham and a series of black and white paintings on The Stations of the Cross.

    Newman’s later work, like the one below titled Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue series, uses vibrant, pure colors, often on a very large canvas.Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?, 1966. (http://pintura.aut.

    org/SearchProducto?Produnum=10625);While Minimalist art had a world of its own, a field that was coming into its own was that of Minimalist architecture.  This field began to address several issues, even while producing works that were Minimalist in nature. For example, it looked at how lives had changed, how complex social structures had been broken down and simplified and in turn how architecture could reflect it. Thus Minimalist architecture began to display these choices and lifestyles.

    The term Minimalism was coined, above all, as a means of describing in laudatory terms, or in a reductive and strongly critical manner, the works by protagonists of the American scene in the late Fifties and Sixties.In the field of architecture, the term Minimalism was used, at times with caution and at others with determination, to connote the works of architects from profoundly different origins and cultural backgrounds, who had based their own work on a reduction in expressive media, a rediscovery of the value of empty space and a radical elimination of everything that does not coincide with a programme, also with minimalist design overtones, of extreme simplicity and formal cleanliness. The important thing about Minimalist architecture was to look at it as a way of arranging space instead of in the opposite direction – a way of arranging objects. Objects were viewed as a separate entity by themselves, with regard to their proportions, surfaces and the way light would and could fall on them.

    Space then was not something to be filled, instead something to be played with. The focus of minimalist architecture was space rather than forms, places rather than things. This is why, in its fullest and most satisfying expression, Minimalist architecture is not something which you can readily acquire a piece of.  A perfect hemispherical basin carved out of a solid block of Carrara marble may be an exquisite object, but in isolation it is no more than that: a beautiful basin.

    It is the totality of the environment of which it is a part which signifies. It is important, too, to understand that minimalism is not a manifesto for living spartanly. This is a recurrent misunderstanding which springs in part from its association with movements where renunciation of one sort or another is a central theme – it is unusual for a discussion of architectural simplicity not to include some reference to Zen Buddhism, the Cistercian Order or the Shakers. One may respond to the aesthetic expressions and indeed share many of the needs which these movements have sought to address without adopting particular codes of behavior: one can want a place where it is possible to be still, without necessarily wanting to pray in it.

     [2]Minimalism is not an architecture of self-denial, deprivation or absence: it is defined not by what is not there, but by the rightness of what is and the richness with which this is experienced. It is not about creating the architectural equivalent of the hair shirt, but about making the best possible contexts for the things which matter in life, on paring back the accretions of surface and behavior to what is essential: the glory lies not in the act of removal, but in the experience of what is left.;One of the better known minimal architects was a man named Donald Judd who refused to be termed a minimal artist. His work was the kind that sought distinction and clarity.

    It was an exquisite blend of composition, structure and creation without including the rigor that was usually associated with hard core minimalism. Beginning with illusory media, Judd went on to experiment with constructions, metals, plywood, concrete and color-impregnated Plexiglas. Artists like Judd were seen to be working on art forms that refused to echo the classical European ideals of representational sculpture. Art that would be unable to represent anything is the kind of work they wished to produce.

    Following their own rules of illusion, their work was clearly strong, and defined.The below picture is one of Judd’s classic creations and is definitely a Minimalist masterpiece. Still looked upon for inspiration by various architects and artists, this work of art remains untitled and is quintessentially Donald Judd. (http://www.

    eikongraphia.com/?p=381)Luis Barragan was another on the list of impressive Minimalists ? one of Mexico’s most influential 20th century architects. Barragan was very famous for the way in which he had mastered space and light, as well as his reinvention of the International Style as a colourful, sensuous genre of Mexican modernism. Seen below are a few of his works and the way in which he describes them, is an expression of his mastery in the field.

    Irrespective of whether the art form in question was a sculpture, a painting, music or a play, Minimalism has been a greater influence on the art world than one can imagine. Much like the movement itself, Minimalism has extended its sway in a strong, yet bold and distinct way.;Photo copyright Barragin Foundation SwitzerlandLuis Barrag‡nMaster Plan for Los Clubes, Service Entrance, Mexico City 1968″In the gardens and homes I have designed, I have always tried to allow for the interior placid murmur of silence, and in my fountains, silence sings.”Luis Barrag‡n;Photo: Fi McGheeJohn PawsonTilty Barn, Tilty Hill, Essex 1996″Emptiness allows us to see space as it is, to see architecture as it is, preventing it from being corrupted, or hidden, by the incidental debris of paraphernalia of every day life.

    “John Pawson;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;REFERENCES1.      Minimalism. (2003, March 12). Archive Journeys: Reise.

    Retrieved November 25, 2007, from http://www.tate.org.uk/archivejourneys/reisehtml/mov_minimalism.

    htm;2.      Pawson, J. (2004, April 10). Minimalism.

      The Guardian. RetrievedNovember 25, 2007, from http://www.johnpawson.com/essays/minimalism[1] Minimalism.

    (2003, March 12). Archive Journeys: Reise. Retrieved November 25, 2007, fromhttp://www.tate.

    org.uk/archivejourneys/reisehtml/mov_minimalism.htm[2] Pawson, J. (2004, April 10).

    Minimalism.  The Guardian. RetrievedNovember 25, 2007, from http://www.johnpawson.com/essays/minimalism;

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