This week I have been reminded of the work of Yves Klein (1928-1962) who is perhaps best remembered as a painter of blue monochrome paintings. More specifically, he is known for the particular shade of blue paint employed in his paintings and sculptures, the trademarked International Klein Blue (IKB). But what has drawn my attention to Klein’s work this week is more the conceptual side of his practice (although this is not to imply that his blue monochromes are not conceptual), especially the work in which Klein explored (and exposed) throughout many mediums what he dubbed ‘the void.’ To this effect, Wikipedia recounts works by Klein such as a composition with no actual composition, painting without painting, and an exhibition without any content whatsoever (his Iris Clert Gallery exhibition of April, 1958). I’ve stressed in the past that where minimal art succeeds for me is in its ability to be reductive and to reveal the essence of being and matter. Klein took this to—what was at the time—extremes, and in his idiosyncratic grand and theatrical manner. We’re all better off for having him.
Categorized “Conceptual art”
AaPFAFF is the artistic project of Catalan painter Guillermo Pfaff. His GRADO:0 exhibition in the prestigious La Taché gallery in Barcelona is an exploration in concise, self-contained geometry. His Portable Paintings, canvases that can be folded and stowed away at one’s leisure, are quite a pragmatic and maybe even revolutionary approach to art as a consumer product. I had the opportunity to ask the artist a few questions and was fascinated by his system and methodology, very minimalistic and sustainable in nature, consisting basically of producing art with minimal gestures and materials, as well as only producing work that has a specific finality. Quite the example of precision.
Diary fragments is an on-going illustration experiment by Serbia-born and Croatia-based visual artist Mario Kolaric. Two simple elements combined – lines and color – are the basis for most of these drawings, so beautifully simple and yet each one is potent with personality, brought on by the bold pop of colors and the delicacy of each precise line. Coming from a background in Fine Arts and now dwelling in illustration, Kolaric’s minimalistic and pop sketches become even more intriguing when you see the rest of his body of work, filled with strongly narrative drawings with a deep folkloric and melancholy essence. His other interests are in merging his illustrations with spatial installations. I’d definitely love to see a spatial representation of these Diary fragments series. I’d also love a wall full of his drawings!
Luca Sironi is a Milan based photographer and filmmaker who recently completed his conceptual photography project titled Rest Days. The project comprises 24 colour photographs depicting a series of closed shop shutters. Sironi explains: The shutters hide what’s inside, becoming apparently identical to each other, and in their repetition, looking more and more like a minimalist series of ordered anonymous headstones. The photos, taken in the towns of Bussero, Caponago, Carugate, Cernusco soul Naviglio, Gorgonzola and Pessano con Bornago, represent the change over the last 25 years in people’s social habits on Sundays (our typical rest day) in the areas these shops reside. In recent years the result is as if shops have changed their function, becoming symbols of the inhibition that consumerism exercises on spontaneous social aggregation, rather than useful daily facilities. I love the impact these photos make as a collective.
These sculptural objects by New York based designer Ron Gilad, together called Spaces, Etc., are minimal three-dimensional outlines of various familiar shapes. Gilad is known for his experiments with architectural forms, which were triggered by an infamous New York moment. In 2008 his entire building was evicted due to a fire code violation. Living without a permanent place for three months, the designer started exploring the idea of spaces and homes, trying to define what a home really is. The process of translating ideas into three dimensional functional objects is something that has always intrigued me. I am not inventing anything new. I’m basing my thinking, research, and creative process on what I see, know, and what already exists. Almost naively I ask the question, why is it like this? The visual tension between the lines is so strong, the objects show the signs of optical illusions, stretching the frontier between transparent and tangible, functional and abstract.
Berlin-based artist Olafur Eliasson, a Minimalissimo favourite, conceptualised Your House. The book, designed in 2006 by Michael Heimann and Claudia Baulesch, is a limited-edition artist’s book with a laser-cut negative impression of Eliasson’s house in Copenhagen. Each of the 454 pages are individually cut and corresponds to 2.2 cm of the actual house. Commissioned by the Library Council of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Your House is a remarkable arrangement of cutouts and imagery presented in a minimalist yet technical format. Readers gradually build a physical and mental narrative, whilst also examining the perceptual and spatial experience of domestic architecture of the house. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of reading one of the 225 printed copies (perhaps one day), I love of the combination of sculpture and architecture and the illusion of being inside the house.
German artist Wolfgang Laib is well known for his sculptures known as Milkstones. These works consist of a block of marble containing very shallow depressions that are filled with milk. The combination and contrast of materials and textures make the tactility of the work quite vivid, even if you haven’t (myself included), seen these in person. As this article by Mark Stevens points out: Pouring milk on stone took on the sacramental air of ritual; the milk itself evoked intimacy, nurture, purity, and the beauty of first things. It was, as he said, at once “chaste and sensual,” joining milk to marble, soft to hard- the two became inseparable in these works- reflected the Eastern aspiration of harmonizing opposites. Laib is also well known for his beautiful, and painstaking installations of yellow pollen.
Claude Rutault (1941) has had a highly important role in art in France since the 1970s. He is a conceptual artist although Rutault doesn’t see himself as a conceptual artist but as a painter. Since 1973, Claude Rutault uses a simple method to create new artworks. Definition/Method is a text, describing a procedure that makes it possible to realize a painting by Claude Rutault. Basically, with Rutault, the wall is becoming an integral part of the artwork. For example, the definition/method 1 of 1973 reads: canvas per unit. a canvas braced on a stretcher, painted the same colour as the wall on which it is hung. can be used standard formats available in the trade, be they rectangular, square, round or oval. hanging arrangement is traditional. The identity of the canvas colour with the wall has led to development of a corpus of over 300 definitions/methods. Artworks from Claude Rutault are visible at Galerie Perrotin in Paris. I really love the simplicity of his work, visually, but also his formulation and critical analysis of the art world, founded on the social operation between the work and the artist, their gallery, the collector, the museum and the auction house.
nothingtoodoo is the latest work by Beijing-born, Canadian-based artist Terrence Koh. The work is part installation and part performance. It consists of a large mound of white salt, around which Koh circles in a white suit on his knees. Koh has continued this ritual since the opening of the work at Mary Boone Gallery in New York City on the 12th of February, and intends to continue it until its closing on the 19th of March. This kind of duration performance reminds me instantly of Marina Abromovic’s The Artist is Present, which was performed at the Museum of Modern Art midway through last year. Roberta Smith, writing for the New York times, says: This is performance art reduced to a bare and relentless rite in a space that has been stripped down to a kind of temple.
American minimalist artist, Carl Andre (1935) is known for his geometrical arrangement of commercial and natural materials such as bricks, blocks and plates. His most significant contribution was to distance sculpture from processes of carving, modeling, or constructing, and to make works that simply involved sorting and placing. Andre has sought to renegociate conventions of display, forcing a dialogue between the object and its surrouding. Carl Andre has received this year the Switzerland’s 2011 Roswitha Haftmann Foundation Prize. I love it because the artist does not want his sculptures to have a fixed view point, but to be experienced as more than areas or paths.
Minimalism is the official language of public sculpture and public memorials. The Indian-born, London-based sculptor Anish Kapoor (1954) lets art and architecture show off. His sculpture is in many ways one long ode to the minimalist monochrome and its emphasis on simplicity and purity, but he has also explored different materials such as fibreglass and reflective metal surface to create organic forms that mirror the viewer. I love his wildly popular Cloud Gate, an enormous, shiny, pillowlike archway at Millennium Park in Chicago. So if you are in the city, check it out yourself!
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.