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Mar 3, 2011

Module 2; Assignment 4; Minimalism

ASSIGNMENT 4; Minimalism

Donald Judd
Agnes Martin
Dan Flavin
Robert Morris
Frank Stella
Carl Andre
Robert Smithson
Sol LeWitt
Richard Serra

Donald Judd
Donald Judd, American, started the pure square and rectangular forms (1928-94) in the beginning of the sixties and did not call his work sculptures but “specific objects” and he worked during his last decades with very industrial materials, such as concrete, plywood, industrial co§lour impregnated plexi-glass and metals. He also was of the opinion that no signs of the artist’s hand or actions should be at all visible, which meant that his works were manufactured in factories according to his exact drawings.
In his later years he also worked with furniture, design and architecture.

Dan Flavin
He was  a Jamaican who lived and worked in the US. He initially studied to become a priest, however when doing his military service in Korea he started to study art and continued when he came back to the US. Rather early in his career he made art that were sculptures or boxes (a series of “icons”) that were illuminated by fluorescent light and gradually he developed this concept fully. He also gradually developed his art to become large and room filling, and later site specific installations. His last piece of art was the site specific illumination of The church Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa, Milan, Italy which was completed a couple of days before his death in 1996.

Robert Morris
Born in Kansas, US in 1931, he first studied in Kansas but moved to New York in 1959 where he studied for his Master’s degree. He also travelled in Japan and Korea. Morris was an artist and is considered as one of the major artists in contemporary art but he also published essays about art as well as working as a teacher. He used industrial materials such as rubber, steel, plywood and industrial felt, but he also worked with dirt, thread and steam (!). Morris was prominent in developing minimalism but continued to work with performance art, with land art (Earthworks), installation art and was also active in the Process Art movement. This movement was exploring the making of the art object as an art in its own. Morris said: “Much attention had been focused on the analysis of the content of art making—its end images—but there has been little attention focused on the significance of the means…I believe there are ‘forms’ to be found within the activity of making as much as within the end products. These are forms of behavior aimed at testing the limits and possibilities involved in that particular interaction between one’s actions and the materials of the environment. This amounts to the submerged side of the art iceberg.”

Robert Smithson
Robert Smithson was one of the founders of Land Art; Earthworks. He also worked with photo and film. One of his most famous creations was the “Spiral Jetty”. One of his most prominent concepts or themes, was entropy – and explored his thoughts in “decay and rebuilding and in chaos and order” – concepts or rather processes with an inherent entropy. He made asphalt pour down a slope, he placed and displaced mirrors in bush and in earth, he half-buried a shed and this is Land Art – a post-minimalistic movement. He also created the concept of “nonsites” (an indoor earthwork)– and one example of this was his first nonsite: Nonsite - Pine Barrens, New Jersey. He also worked with the concept “Displacement” – which included work by placing mirrors in the environment – and later removing them. He created photos depicting the process of making his earthwork but also films.

Sol  LeWitt (1928-2007)
He was born and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut in a family with Russian immigrant Jewish origin. After graduating from Syracuse University he went travelling to Europe and later he served in the Korean war, went to Japan and returned to Korea. In 1953 he moved to New York and set up his studio at the same time as he studied at the School of Visual Art. He was also interested in design and for a year he worked for an architect as a graphic designer. He took up a job as a night receptionist at MoMa in New York, and these different experiences formed the base for his own art work.
LeWitt is regarded as the - one of the founders of Minimalistic Art as well as Conceptual art.
LeWitt has been enormously prolific. He has produced hundreds and hundreds of wall drawings, of which 1200 have been executed, and he has produced gallery size pieces of art to huge outdoor works. The cube was a paramount base for much of his work and he has produced some 50 artist books. LeWitt was contemporary and inspirational for most of the known abstract and minimalistic artists, such as Robert Smithson, Carl Andre and Frank Stella.

Task 1: Two Minimalistic artists – three dimensions

Carl Andre (1935-)
Born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1935, and he has described as a place where industry was granite-cutting and monument sculpture. His father worked mainly in shipyards. He did study art in Massachusetts where “he first got to know the joy of making art”. He travelled in Europe, he worked at a steel work as well as on a railroad and joined the army. His work is “very minimalistic” and he excels in creating pieces of art based on mathematical relations and philosophy. A famous sculpture was “Equivalent VIII” which was a “pile of concrete bricks laid out on the floor”. Most of Andre’s sculptures are creations on the floor or horizontal with the floor. The Equivalent VIII was purchased by Tate Gallery, or rather he created a new for Tate, and this acquisition was widely debated by media. Andre has said: “My art springs from my desire to have things in the world which would otherwise never be there.” The name “equivalent” springs from the fact that he produced a number of installations/sculptures consisting of 120 firebricks, arranged in different ways, but with the same height, mass and volume – hence “equivalent”.

Another known installation is “Stone Field Sculpture 1977” which consists of 36 rocks placed on a triangular lawn, in Hartford near Main. A further known work of Carl Andre is “Lament for the Children”, 1976. It consists of 100 concrete blocks placed on the floor in rows.
Carl Andre was contemporary with Frank Stella, they had even been students together at the Phillips Academy, and during a couple of years in the end of the fifties they even shared a studio in New York.
In 1988 he was accused of having murdered his wife, an artist, Ana Mendieta, but was acquitted of the murder.

Richard Serra (1935-)
He was born in San Francisco. He became a student o English literature at the University of California in Berkely and also Santa Barbara. During several years he supported himself by working in steel mills, and this experience has strongly influenced Serra who is known for producing very big pieces of art in sheet metal.
He started his art studies at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture and continued later overseas where he studied both in Florence and Paris. Since 1964 he has worked and lived in New York, where he initially worked with rubber but subsequently started to work with lead. He was contemporary with and friends of Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre as well as Robert Smithson.
His major works are produced from “Cor-Ten Steel” and he has worked with big rolls as well as upstanding sheet metal, and often his sculptures are self supporting. The material rusts with time but gradually the rusting stabilizes.
In 1981 he was commissioned by a public Art-in-Architecture programme” to produce a piece of art for the Federal Plaza in New York. He produced the “Tilted Arc” and was really a piece of sheet steel, lightly curved that was placed on the ground. It looked like a low wall. However, it was much debated and was dismantled eight years later and taken away for scrap. Serra himself claimed that site specific art could not be moved, then it was destroyed.


A further famous work by Serra is his sculpture “Snake” – a mammoth sculpture with its permanent place in the Guggenheim museum of Bilbao. It consists of three sections of steel sheets, creating a sineous curved path, each section consisting of several parallel sheets. The whole work comprises eight sculptures, being 12-14 feet high, with a weight of 44 to 276 tons (!).
Serra is used to create debate, one commission for Madrid went “missing” – and he was gradually turned down in 2002 by students and professors at the California Institute of Technology.
Most of what he does and has produced is giant pieces of work. My personal feeling is ambivalent. Most of his work I think break and create contrast with the environment where his pieces are placed and I can understand that he is controversial.  However, I am quite fond of the material he uses, I think it is beautiful in its simplicity and a few of his pieces of art I also like a lot. I do like the “Snake” in Bilbao and I also think that a few of his “curved walls” are beautiful.

My own minimalistic sculpture:


Walking with a crutch in London’s tube system, one looks very carefully down at each step of stairs in order to secure the crutch safely. I discovered the most interesting patterns on the steps of the different staircases in different tube stations. Most of the steps had a quite decorative row on the edge of each step, usually made from metal, sometimes brass and usually with imprints – possibly to prevent from slipping. Frequently there was a second row, in a pattern behind the first row and I found all this very intriguing and interesting. Unfortunately I had not brought my camera at this occasion – but – the steps will still be there most certainly.

I became inspired by these steps, and in addition I had already found in my basement treasure grove – two thick sheets of dark grey rubber foam with a tight and heavy structure giving a raw and “industrial” feeling. Hence my proposed  piece would be a combination of this foam rubber and another “industrial” raw material, white Styrofoam, with “bricks” as well as thin sheets of both materials, glued together in a staircase. I have omitted the imprints on the edging metal bricks – this minimalistic impression is supposed to be freed from any decorative matter.
I do feel I have captured the “minimalistic” and industrial feeling in this piece of work and I also feel the symbolized staircase steps in the tube, are a further good base for my minimalistic sculpture. I quite like my proposed work - however again -my perspective is not the best.

Frank Stella (1936--)
Frank Stella was born and raised in Massachusetts but moved to study at Princeton University. He majored in history but had started to take interest in art. He moved to New York and started to paint. At the time he opposed the abstract expressionism and painted paintings where you could identify the object and where the object was not only “expressed”. At the time he stated that “a painting was just a flat surface with paint on – nothing more”. He was recognized to be a unique artist quite early, already when he was in his mid-twenties. In his early art he painted very geometrical forms, and used both arches and rectangular lines and lines interacting with each other.
In the middle of the sixties, he started printmaking and produced his first abstract prints, using silkscreen, lithography and etching.
Already in 1970 he was honoured by a retrospective exhibition at the museum of Modern Art, the youngest artist ever. He has had one later as well.
In the mid-eighties he started to do sculptures, or works in three dimensions for display in public places. Among other commissions he has designed the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, a very well-known and appreciated design.
Frank Stella is still an active artist and lives and works in New York. He is also making major efforts to protect his own and other artists works, by being active in debates and by creating awareness of copyright infringements.

Agnes Martin (1912-2004)
Agnes Martin was a Canadian-American painter, she grew up in Vancouver but moved to the US in 1931 and became a citizen in 1950. She educated herself to become a teacher and studied at various universities – she matriculated at the University of New Mexico and returned to Columbia University where she studied for her M.A.
Agnes Martin moved to New York in 1957 and mixed with artists of the time.  In 1967 she moved to Cuba, New Mexico and did not paint for several years – however in 1974 she exhibited a new group of paintings and has then exhibited regularly. She has revealed in an interview that the loft and studio she was working in in New York was to be demolished and that she could not think of working anywhere else in New York– and this triggered her move to New Mexico

 Her art is comprised by lines, marks and grids and she uses very light colours. She has been classed to be a minimalist – however she herself has denounced that. Her art was not “completely” minimalistic as the marks of the brush were visible and also other traces of the artist’s hand. She only painted in black, brown and white before she moved to New Mexico, after which she started to include the light pastel colours. She rather considered herself to be an abstract expressionist. Her canvases were constructed by means of a grid, pencil drawn, painted lines onto a stained canvas. She worked for decades in a large format on six foot square stretcher , but in the latest decade of her life she had to diminish a bit – to five foot square stretchers as she had physical difficulties to handle the larger ones. In the end of her life, shortly before she died, she had difficulties to handle these as well, and instead of becoming dependant on assistance, she left painting – and died shortly thereafter. Martin was preoccupied of a sense of love, happiness and joy and was of the opinion that an untroubled mind was needed for inspiration. She drew a parallel to children that she considered much more creative and innovative than adults.
I went to see her work in Tate Modern, and there were several of her pastel work, large canvases which do give a very special sense of lightness and space. Agnes Martin was also a writer and poet and she seemed more of a recluse than many other artists. She was close to the philosophy of the Taoists and has been claimed to not have read one single newspaper during the last 50 years of her life.
During later years she left the colours again and very late she paints some black paintings. 

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