England-based artist Ben Long has been making a series of work called Spirit Structures, which are geometric sculptures made out of spirt levels. His website explains: The Minimalists employed manufacturing processes as a rejection of expression, as a way to avoid what they viewed as self-referential complacency in their work. Long adopts this approach, not necessarily to mirror this detached austerity, but as a way to relate his own sculptures to the techniques of replication that enable goods like the spirit level to be widely available for domestic consumption. I find Ben Long’s dealings with Minimalism in this work fascinating. Pictured here are Modular Spirit Structure (Fisco L52 series) and Two Part Modular Spirit Structure (Fisco L25 series) both from 2010, and an isometric projection for a new Spirit Structure, which is currently in the works. The new Spirit Structure is the first of the large scale Spirit Structures. This particular one encompasses the phenomenon known as “strange loops”, which you might be familiar with from the graphic works of Escher.
In 1966, Robert Smithson created a series of works called Alogon. The second piece in the series was exhibited at the seminal exhibition of minimalist work called Primary Structures in 1966. This piece is currently in the Museum of Modern Art collection. Of the work, Oxford University Press says: [E]ach [work is] composed of a number of step structures arranged in order of decreasing size, conveying Smithson’s belief in the illogical and absurd nature of existence. Though each of the parts is static, their dynamic arrangement introduces tension into the work as a whole. I hadn’t seen this work until recently, but find it interesting to look at in comparison to his bigger land-art works, such as Spiral Jetty.
Larry Bell has had a long and varied career, and also influential enough to land himself on the cover of The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Born in 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, and now based in Toas, New Mexico and Venice, California, his earliest work were, like Donald Judd, Abstract-expressionist paintings. In the 1960s, Bell began making some of his most recognisable works: Cube structures that sit on transparent plinths. Three of these works were featured in the influential 1966 minimalist exhibition Primary Structures, which also featured the work of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Ellsworth Kelly, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt (amongst others). I often see people disregard the relationship between the plinth and a sculpture, and furthermore the plinth’s sculptural presence. It’s always refreshing to look at Bell’s work, because he brings an awareness to the plinth by making it part of the work itself.
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!
These wall sculptures by Icelandic artist Thor Vigfusson are terrific. He works with mirrors, plastic and glass in a formalist fashion with mainly subdued (but also sometimes bright) colour palettes. Reflectivity and light play an important role in the way they capture and represent the space in which they are installed. i8 (a gallery in Iceland where Thor has exhibited) said this of his work: Deceptively simple, his pieces are constantly changing and engage the viewer in intimate contemplation. I couldn’t agree more.
Oooh this is nice! The Kinetic Sculpture consists of 714 metal spheres, hanging from thin steel wires. Each sphere can be moved individually, and through some amazing software, moving shapes can be created. The Kinetic Sculpture is created by ART+COM, a digital media design agency based in Berlin, Germany, for the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany. ART+COM have animated a seven minute long mechatronic narrative – a dance in mid-air. (Thx, Floris!)
The couple vases, made of porcelain, are designed by Germany-based Christine Ruff. Ruff, who studied ceramic design after an education in ceramics decorating, sees her work at the intersection of art and craft. However clean and neutral it is, the form play of vases attracts your eye. Reflecting their form on the opposite, a bound is created between the two vases despite their outward differences. “For a time like ours, when people’s taste seems to return to baroque, no-frills is rather refreshing, I think” The pairs are available in either white or black matte glaze, or black and white.
Not minimalist, but I think you’ll enjoy the aesthetics: the Neo Gramphone. At the moment, The Neo Gramophone is just a sculpture. The idea is however to give it a speaker function, so you can hook it up to your computer, or to give it Bluetooth connectivity. The Neo Gramophone is the brainchild of German product design graduate Lars Amhoff, and his partner Christin Krause. The duo operates under the flag of The Substain. Their mottos are Quality over quantity and Art over empty design for the masses. Here’s what they say about the design: The Neo Gramophone is the image, simplicity and feeling of a traditional gramophone transported in the 21st century. I say: make it happen, guys!
Donald Judd (1928-1994) was one of the originators of Minimal Art, which it came into being in the 1960s. Minimal Art reacted against the symbolism, spontaneity, and emotional intensity of Abstract Impressionism. Rather than expression, Minimal Art artists sought after objectivity. By removing ‘distractions’ like composition, theme, representation and so on, they wanted to allow the viewer to experience the work as a whole, and in its own respect. Judd’s work is highly geometrical, and many of his works are arrangements of repeated, freestanding objects. Judd used humble and honest materials such as metals, industrial plywood, concrete and color-impregnated plexiglas. His works tends to constrast with their environment, creating an interesting tension. Overall, Judd has led the way for many of his peers, and minimalism as such. Respect!
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” That’s what Michaelangelo said, some 500 years ago. I could also easily have been a quote from contemporary artist Peter Callesen, were it not that Calleson’s material isn’t marble – it’s paper. When I look at a sheet of A4 paper, I see a printable object. Callesen however sees little stories, hidden within them: failytales, romantic encounters, or dramatic tragedies. Through delicate cuts, the artist allows tiny, fragile figures to erect themselves from the paper – but without ever escaping where the material they came from.