Minimalism in the Visual Arts

Reacting against the formal excesses and raw emotionalism of abstract expressionism, the practitioners of minimal art (also sometimes called ABC art) strove to focus attention on the object as an object, reducing its historical and expressive content to the bare minimum. Many minimalist artists were sculptors concerned with reducing form to its utmost simplicity. They used flat surface colors, factory finishes, and industrial materials. The use of serial repetitions contributed to their goal. Carl Andre regarded the Italian artist Enrico Castellani (1930–2017) as the father of minimalism for his monochromatic paintings, begun in the late 1950s, on canvases topographically altered by underlying rows of items. Perhaps the earliest uses of the term minimalism regarding art was in the essay Minimal Art (1965) by the British art theorist Richard Wollheim. American artists such as Andre, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and Dan Flavin were associated with the movement. The exhibition Primary Structures, held in New York in 1966, spotlighted works of this school. Minimalism gave rise to process art, land art, performance art, conceptual art, and installation art.

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