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Minimalism The Cool School. The term "minimalist" is characteristic of anything which is spare or stripped to its essentials. Minimalism. LOCAL: U.S. in 1960’s-70’s FORM: Abstract, geometric modules LOOK: Clean, bare, simple TECHNIQUE: Machine-made MEANING: You be the judge.

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minimalism the cool school

MinimalismThe Cool School

The term "minimalist" is characteristic of anything which is spare or stripped to its essentials.

  • LOCAL: U.S. in 1960’s-70’s
  • FORM: Abstract, geometric modules
  • LOOK: Clean, bare, simple
  • TECHNIQUE: Machine-made
  • MEANING: You be the judge

Although monochrome canvases by painters like Robert Ryman, Brice Marden, Robert Mangold, and Agnes Martin are called Minimalist, it is primary a school of sculpture. The founding fathers are all American sculptors like Donald Judd, who defined Minimalism as ”getting rid of the things that people used to think were essential to art.”

An all white painting measuring 9 1/2 " x 10" and signed twice on the left side in white umber


Donald Judd, “untitled,“ 1969

solid geometry
Solid Geometry
  • Minimalist, like Hard Edge painters, eradicated the individual’s handprint, as well as any emotion, image, or message. To attain such a “pure,” anonymous effect, they used prefab materials in simple geometric shapes like metal boxes or bricks.

Carl Andre, “Sulcus,” 1980 Western red cedar wood overall 150 x 90 x 90 cm


Jackson Pollock’s Action Painting

  • Most strongly noted with the American visual arts in the 1960’s and 70’s.
  • Minimalism was a reaction against both the swagger of Abstract Expressionism and vulgarity of Pop. After they jettisoned both personality and consumerism, what Minimalist had left were cold, mechanical forms for the viewers to make of them what they would.

Andy Warhol, Campbell Soup-1-screenprint-1968


Metal shelves attached to a gallery wall, panes of glass on a gallery floor, a plank leaning against a wall are all Minimalist art.

  • The ultimate Minimalist exhibit was French artist Yves Klein’s show of nothing at all, just a freshly whitewashed gallery containing no object or painting (two patrons even bought nonexistent canvases – Klein demanded payment in gold). “Compared to them,” art dealer Leo Castelli said, “Mondrian is an expressionist painter.”
  • For these sculptors, minimum form ensured maximum intensity. By taking away “distractions” like detail, imagery, and narrative – i.e., everything – they forced the viewer to pay total attention to what’s left. “Simplicity of shape does not necessarily equate with simplicity of experience,” said Robert Morris
a mini roundup of the most prominent minimalist
A mini-Roundup of the Most Prominent Minimalist
  • Donald Judd
  • Carl Andre
  • Dan Flavin
  • Sol Lewitt
  • Robert Morris
  • Richard Serra
donald judd
Donald Judd
  • (b. 1928) makes machine-made stainless-steel, Plexiglas, and plywood boxes arranged in horizontal or vertical rows on walls. “ A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something in itself,” he said.

Untitled by Donald Judd - St. Louis, Missouri

in Abstract Public Sculptures

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1990, Anodised aluminium, steel and acrylic

Donald Judd's untitled from 1979

carl andre
Carl Andre

(b. 1935) went to the opposite extreme from traditional vertical, figurative sculpture on a pedestal. Instead, he arranged bricks, cement blocks, and flat slabs on the floor in a horizontal configuration, as in his 29 –foot-long row of bricks on the ground.

Equivalent VIII

Copper Galaxy

dan flavin
Dan Flavin
  • (b. 1933) sculpts with light, attaching fluorescent tubes to the wall in stark geometric designs giving off fields of color. Hint: Look at the light, not at the tubes.
sol lewitt
Sol Lewitt
  • (b. 1928) creates simple forms in series like white or black cubes, either open or closed. Although he later added primary colors, LeWitt stresses that art should “engage the mind rather than the eye or emotions.”
robert morris
Robert Morris

(b. 1931) is known for large=scale, hard-edge geometric sculptures like big, blocky right angles. “Unitary forms do not reduce relationships,” he said. “They order them/.” Morris also does antiform sculpture in soft, hanging material like felt. The pieces droop on the wall, sculpted by gravity.

His “Untitled” sculpture is a great example of Minimalism. Made in the years of 1965-71, the sculpture consists of four mirror plated glass and wood cubes arranged as if they had been placed in the four corners of a square.

Robert Morris, installation in the Green Gallery, New York, 1964. Seven geometric plywood structures painted grey.

richard serra
Richard Serra
  • (b. 1939) became infamous for his huge metal sculpture “Tilted Arc,” which aroused such hatred in a public square in New York that it was removed in 1989. Serra’s entry for the 1991 Carnegie International art show consisted of two black rectangles, each hanging on a different wall, one placed high and the other near the floor.

Art 21 Season 1

minimalism in visual art
Minimalism in Visual Art
  • In general, Minimalism's features included: geometric, often cubic forms purged of much metaphor, equality of parts, repetition, neutral surfaces, and industrial materials.
minimalism and music
Minimalism and music.
  • Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features.
minimalism in music
Minimalism in Music
  • In art music of the last 40 years, the term minimalism is sometimes applied to music which displays some or all of the following features:
    • repetition (often of short musical phrases, with minimal variations over long periods of time, ostinati) or
    • stasis (often in the form of drones and long tones);
    • emphasis on consonant harmony;
    • a steady pulse;
    • hypnotic effect; sometimes use of phase shifting where sound waves gradually move out of sync with each other.
    • Hear Example by Michael Nyman at the following link:
  • Other prime examples are the compositions of John Cage and LaMonte Young.
your minimum sculpture project
Your Minimum Sculpture Project
  • Supplies
    • 18 x 24 oak tag paper
    • Scissors
    • Ruler
    • Pencil
    • Glue
    • Tape
    • Drawing paper
    • Pencil/erasers
  • Fold and cut 18 x 24 paper in half to get 2, 18 x 12
  • Measure and cut 1 of these sheets in half (long way) to get 6 x 18
  • Use the big sheet 12 x 18 as your base and twist and turn the remaining paper to form a sculpture.
  • You may cut, fold, bend and twist your paper – but you must use all of the paper given to you.
part 2
Part 2
  • After sculpture is complete, photo your work as in the last slide.
  • Print out view and trace over contour lines of your sculpture with a black medium-sized Sharpie.
  • Lay tracing paper over this and trace only those contour lines that you traced with your Sharpie.
  • This is what you will be focused on when you do your direct observation drawing of your minimum sculpture.
  • After you get your contour drawing on your white drawing paper, put in the values and gradation. Use a spotlight and turn off the overhead lights to get the best quality light and shadow composition.