Minimalism – A canvas painted with two colors of black. Simple shapes. No brushstrokes and no emotion.
I often assume that art takes passion, but then I wonder. . .is there any here? It’s hard to say. But if Minimalism lacks passion, it at least has a reason for it.
The idea of Minimalism came about as a rejection of what art was at the time. The art world in the mid-1900s had its head spinning with Abstract Expressionism, a mixture of intense emotion and non-representational forms. Minimalism deliberately did its best to separate self-expression from art, by reducing colors, textures and shapes to practically nothing.
Although it’s not easy to pin down all of the Minimalist artists, there are a few who I think represent the idea the best.
Barnett Newman is an artist who was associated with the Abstract Expressionists and Color Field painters, but whose work I think really represents Minimalism, due to its extreme simplicity.
Most famous for his “zip” paintings, Newman would paint very large canvases primarily with one color, and then add “zips” of color running vertically up the canvas.
Much of his work really should be seen in person, due to its large scale. Newman’s biggest work, entitled Anna’s Light, was 28 feet wide by 9 feet tall.
Ad Reinhardt, another Minimalist painter, was best known for his “black on black” paintings, like the one at the beginning of this article.
He intended his work to be expressive-less paintings of no extremes, without contrast, of no interest, and lacking traditional composition.
His use of simple crossing shapes and barely two-toned colors can’t help but be unique in their own way, however.
And finally, the last Minimalist artist I’ll be mentioning today is Robert Morris.
Both a painter and a sculptor, Morris used shaped geometric canvases or other non-traditional materials to create works of art like the triangular canvas in the picture to the right.
Minimalism to me is almost a meditative art. It’s art that doesn’t scream for attention, doesn’t try to overwhelm with emotion, and never tries to tell a story. Instead, it simply exists – perhaps as a point of reference for all other art.