Minimalism, also labeled as ‘ABC Art’, ‘Rejective Art’, ‘Literalism’, is a style of art emerged in 1960s postwar America as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. Minimal art is generally abstract-looking, three-dimensional and geometric in form, monochromatic in colour palettes, emphasizing simplicity as a whole. It influences extend throughout fashion, architecture, theatre and even music. Minimalism could be regarded as one of the most influential art style in the second-half of the twentieth century as “it substantially changed what art could look like, how it could be made and what it could be made from (Batchelor, 1997, p.7).” Comparatively, Cristobal Balenciaga could be considered as the innovator of contemporary fashion with his notion of fashion – “An architect for design, a sculpture for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for temperance.” This essay is going to investigate the works of the key minimalist artists, simultaneously analyzing the similarities and differences between the minimalist sculptors from 1965 to 1975 and the recent collections of Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere.
Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol Le Witt and Robert Morris were considered as the main artists that brought about the existence of the Minimal Art, ironically they never acknowledged themselves with the designation of the term ‘Minimal Art’ (Batchelor, 1997, p. 6). To a certain extent, the sculptural works executed by these artists were in distinct directions and forms; yet, at the meantime, they shared various common elements.
Carl Andre’s work was characterized by repetition of elements, simple and unadorned form and the use of common everyday items. He employed forms of rectangle and square such as house bricks, steel tiles or woods as materials and manipulated them to create a new form of art. Andre’s sculpture always teemed with flexibility as he believed that by expanding or reducing an individual element, a new dimension and shape will be emerged. The Equivalent VIII (1966) could be seen as a representative example that fulfils his notion of sculpture (Williams, 1998, p. 329).
Dan Flavin had a distinct style among other minimalist artist. He claimed his work as ‘proposals’ and objected to be labeled as traditional sculptures (Batchelor, 1997, p. 15). He favoured in the use of coloured fluorescent lights where they were installed on the gallery walls. The lights were often arranged in a specific geometric form and patterns to generate a sense of rhythm. With the reflection of shadow that casted onto the plain wall, a special and unusual optical effect will be projected. One such example is the Monument for V. Tatlin, 1969 which was made to pay homage to the Russian artist Tatlin who wanted to marry art with science (Williams, 1998, p. 330).
Donald Judd began his proper three-dimensional modular compositions in around 1966. His work often featured with repeated assembled units in which they were organized in identical intervals; utilizing industrial materials such as aluminum, brass, galvanized iron or steel, and sometimes applied unitary colour paint to form coherency in his work (Batchelor, 1997, p. 42). Untitled (1969) could be regarded as the hallmark of Donald Judd. Ten identical and interchangeable steel boxes protruded from the wall were placed equally apart, incorporating the floor and ceiling into the composition of the sculpture. This work had given a new dimension and perception to the public towards the sculpture (Williams, 1998, p. 328).
The notion of So Le Witt’s work is to ‘remove the skin altogether and reveal the structure.’ He planned the equal and square modules in advance so as to create a linkage in his structures. The surface of the structures was painted in white colour to originate a ‘hard and industrial’ outlook (Batchelor, 1997, p. 35). Le Witt’s structures were linear and transparent to illustrate pure exteriority. This could be comprehended...
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