3.7 Beyond the Object: Minimalism, Postminimalism, and Conceptual Art
Minimalism: Activating the Gallery Space
Just as Pop Art began to bring mass culture into the world of art, Minimalism also bridged gaps between mediums and between the art object and the space around it. Using minimal visual forms, Minimalist artists sought to remove expressive content from the work of art, often employing industrial manufacturers to fabricate objects that would exist in the gallery as a physical presence rather than a precious object on a pedestal.
Two of Minimalism’s major players, Robert Morris (b. 1931) and Donald Judd (1928-1994), made works that dealt with perceptual space, seriality, and the space of the viewers. Both were also active writers and theorists of the movement.
Reading Judd’s writing on Minimalism, what does he draw on from Abstract Expressionism? How does he see the new work as challenging medium-specificity? Think about the term “specific objects.” What does this imply and how does it rethink the work of art as something else?
Postminimalism and Conceptual Art
Drawing on Minimalism’s activation of the gallery space, a group of artists interested in dematerializing the work of art further explored materials, processes, and contingency in ways that have been called “Postminimalism” for how they both came out of and altered the course of art from the preceding movement. Eva Hesse (1936-1970) made works of art with new materials like latex and fiberglass that were both industrial and seemingly organic and even bodily, transforming Minimalism’s hard lines and industrial aesthetics in work that many art historians see as prefiguring the feminist art of the 1970s.
Further dematerializing art so as to begin removing objects all together, conceptual artists explored language and systems of meaning in a manner that both drew on the advanced art of the 1960s and the cerebral work of artists like Marcel Duchamp.
In a work by British artist Mary Kelly, the cold presentation of data used by many conceptual artists is turned on its head to document the artist’s early experience as a mother. The work both explores and critiques psychoanalytical concepts of language development while challenging societal cliches about motherhood and making a significant work of Feminist Art.
Outline for Class Notes