Minimalissimo


Adrian Clement

I have nothing to say and I am saying it.

Barnett Newman, an American-based painter who lived from 1905 – 1970, is linked predominately to the New York Abstract Expressionist school. Even more than Mark Rothko somber coloristic paintings, Newman’s work is perhaps the most minimal of the Abstract Expressionists, as he was strongly involved in color field or monochromatic painting. His paintings are trademarked by what Newman called “zips”. These are painted lines on canvasses of block colors that define the spacial structure of his painting. One of his best known works is Vir Heroicus Sublimis (“The Sublime is Now”) from 1950-1. When it was first exhibited, Newman wrote: There is a tendency to look at large pictures from a distance. The large pictures in this exhibition are intended to be seen from a short distance. These “zips” were also actualised in 3-dimensional forms, such as The Wild (1950). See some of his work at the Museum of Modern Art for their Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition that runs until April 25, 2011.


Untitled (Golden) is a 1995 installation by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996), an artist born in Cuba who lived and worked in New York. Consisting of strands of beads that fall from a hanging device to the floor, the work functions as a membrane that intersects a room and defines new spaces in the process. Of the work, Lauren Hinkson says: The gentle confrontation of this golden screen provokes the tactile and sensory, inviting the viewer to transform its shape simply by walking through.


Gladstone Gallery recently presented an exhibition of large-scale installations by Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), an American artist primarily linked to the Conceptual Art movement on the 1960s and ’70s, but his influence on minimalism is undeniable. Of Wall Drawing #792 (conceived in 1995), Gladstone Gallery says: It underscores LeWitt’s early interest in the intersections between art and architecture, which he distinguished and admired as a practice structured by predetermination, empirical logic, and collaboration. What an absolutely gorgeous work.


I think the most successful artists that work with sculpture and installation are those that address and involve their work in a highly considered conversation with space. In my opinion, there are few others who do this as well as Fred Sandback (1943-2003), an American artist who was renown for his strictly geometrical yarn sculptures, prints and drawings. Writing about his first experiences using yarn, Sandback says: The first sculpture I made with a piece of string and a little wire, was the outline of a rectangular solid—a 2 x 4 inch—lying on the floor. It was a casual act, but it seemed to open up a lot of possibilities for me. I could assert a certain place or volume in its full materiality without occupying and obscuring it. And on the use of straight lines: The line is a means to mediate the quality or timbre of a situation, and has a structure which is quick and abstract and more or less thinkable, but it’s the tonality or, if you want, wholeness of a situation that is what I’m trying to get at. Much like the work of Margaret Roberts, Sandback’s work proves how drastic an intervention of something...


A beautiful collection of paintings by Lauren McCartney, which were completed for her honours at UOW for an exhibition called Multiple Personality Order. These paintings are made up of tiny grids that from a distance look very abstracted, but on closer inspection are actually tightly structured and meticulously composed. Her sculptural pieces, Three Cubes, appear as if one of the squares have jumped off the canvas and into a 3-dimensionality. Of her work, McCartney says: The body of work in Multiple Personality Order is an exploration of colour, light and space through the repetition of brushstrokes set in place by the grid. The title refers to the balance between order and chaos, between the mechanical repetition of the grid and the unpredictable nature of gesture. Repetition and rhythm are the basis for the composition of my paintings. My works use the grid as a guide for the structure of the finished painting, although I don’t let the grid restrict the brushstrokes, instead a subtle overlap of lines occurs as I allow the combination of the rhythmic and spontaneous actions of painting to be the dominant outcome. Photography by Boni Cairncross.


This piece of minimalist sculpture is called Tilted Arc, a 120 foot long Cor-ten steel structure by Richard Serra that was installed in the Federal Plaza in New York in 1981. By 1989, however, it was removed after much controversy. Amongst other things, it was accused of promoting totalitarianism, vandalism and crime. Of the work, Serra has said: The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes. A beautiful work. It’s a shame it’s been destroyed. Photo credits for two of these images: David Aschkenas


Like Karen Schifano and Brent Hallard, Australian non-objective artist Margaret Roberts makes great use of tape in her installation work. Roberts is currently a lecturer in drawing at the National Art School in Sydney, and calls her installation works ‘spacial drawings’. Apart from tape, Roberts also uses acrylic and string in an attempt to interact with the environments she installs her work, in a highly restrained and minimal fashion. While her work may look a little bit random, it is often based on precise measurements of existing structures that are in the same space. For example, with Artefact at Cockatoo Island, Roberts measured the space of 6 permanent mounted walls for works to be hung on, and represented that space in a different form: a piece of red wool that travels along the ground, and up and down from the ceiling. Her choice of red wool in the installation is striking in that it fades almost completely into the background. Of this work, Roberts says: It is also a free standing sculpture outlined in yarn and supported by the floor and roof. It has a chameleon-like identity with the buildings, because, despite its scale, it is nearly invisible.


Born in Sydney, but moving between Germany, Tokyo and San Francisco, Brent Hallard makes beautiful skeletal installations out of tape and other materials. They are very bare, and the forms depart from the grid in slightly odd, but strictly geometric shapes. Of his work, Hallard states: They appear abstract, and are, for that matter just what they are, but… Every time something moves it moves with history, moves out of one into another, pulls at what already is, sometimes pushes what might or can be: so too with these. From November 4 – 21, Hallard will be exhibiting a watercolor show at RC de Ruimte in Haarlem, Netherlands.


William Hall designed this gorgeous catalogue for Calvin Klein’s flagship store in Avenue Montaigne, Paris. Hall states: Since the catalogue was not intended to be sold, it was possible to eschew the traditional assumption that a cover should define or be indicative of its content. Instead there was an opportunity to create an enigmatic and alluring object, the abstract qualities of which demand attention in their own right. I think the intention to create an enigmatic and alluring object has been met as a result of the absence of any sort of adornment (like text or graphics) on the front cover. The contrast between the shiny and matte surfaces on the cover is also very nice.


Born in Germany in 1947, artist Dieter Villinger has made a career in making large monochromatic paintings conscious of their physicality and the spacial relationship between them and the environment in which they’re installed. Of his work, Michael Hübl states: By defining his paintings as objects, declaring them individual pieces, Villinger is making an indirect statement about the consistency and the presence of his paintings. Villinger’s colour objects are bodies, not surfaces. Although difficult to see in these photographs, Villinger’s paintings are often quite texturally complex as explained in depth by Matthias Bleyl. Images courtesy of Dieter Villinger & VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


French-based “abstract minimalist” Daniel Buren is well known for his trademark use of stripes, sized consistently at 8.7cm wide. His fascination with the motif has been materialised in the form of paintings, site specific installations and unauthorised public artworks, using striped awning canvases in France, and posting striped posters around Paris including various metro stations. He is perhaps best known for his black and white striped columns installed in a 3000 square metre area outside of the Palais Royal in Paris in 1986, called Les Deux Plateaux and nicknamed Colonnes de Buren. Sometimes called a conceptual artist for his dealings with space and the gallery setting, Buren blocked the entrance to his first solo exhibition with one of his striped works. Of the Guggenheim Museum, where Buren has exhibited before, he says “[it] really kills a piece of art, primarily because it’s a work of art itself.”


Bluish is the title of a 2009 installation by Berlin-based artist Ayse Erkmen. Isn’t it just gorgeous? I love the contrast between its monumental form and its apparent weightlessness. The transparency of the material chosen for this work casts a beautiful shadow of blue on the gallery floor. The height at which it is suspended also invites people to experience the sensation of standing underneath it, and therefore also in direct contact with the colour blue.