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Entries in Minimalism (6)


Frank Stella: Dynamism, Tactility, and Scale

Frank Stella - Chodorow II - 1971 - Felt, paper and canvas collage on canvas - overall: 274.4 x 269.3 cm (108 1/16 x 106 in.) - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Focusing on the formal elements of art-making, Frank Stella (born 1936) has created complicated works that embody dynamism, tactility, and scale. Though technically part of the Second Generation of abstract expressionists, Stella dramatically departed from that tradition in the late 1950s, becoming a leader and practitioner of what would become Minimalism. He became known for his irregularly shaped works and large-scale multimedia reliefs. 

Stella studied painting at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and history at Princeton University (B.A., 1958). He gained recognition for his art when he was still in his mid-20s, and has enjoyed a long and productive career. MoMA and the Whitney, in New York, have both held retrospectives of his work, and one of his freestanding public sculptures is installed in front of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

To learn more about the artists featured on What About Art? this week, register HERE for Jill Kiefer’s Post-Modern Art class, beginning shortly at the Bethany Arts Community in Ossining, New York.


Sol LeWitt: An Artist of Ideas

Sol LeWitt - Floor Structure - 1963 - Painted wood - 6' x 46" x 36” - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (click photo for larger image)Minimalist artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) “earned a place in the history of art for his leading role in the Conceptual movement. His belief in the artist as a generator of ideas was instrumental in the transition from the modern to the postmodern era”. Interestingly, some of his methods recalled practices from the Middle Ages. In the spirit of the medieval workshop, the master (LeWitt) would develop preliminary drawings of his artistic conceptions, then leave it to a group of assistants to carry out the project. Unlike his medieval predecessors, LeWitt’s instructions were kept deliberately vague, so that the end result was not completely controlled by the artist. 

He believed that an idea (or the directions attached to an idea) could be works of art in and of themselves. So his emphasis was on process and basic materials (or the lack of them). The use of industrial materials common to many of LeWitt’s contemporaries implied a certain expectation of permanence with regard to a work of art. In direct contrast, LeWitt appreciated the ephemeral character and impermanence of Conceptual art. In short, he let the traditional materials speak for themselves, to demonstrate their own vulnerability to decay, destruction, or obsolescence. British artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992) seems to have had a similar thought process. He often painted on raw canvas, without preparing it, because he believed that a work of art—like an artist—should have a life span.

"I wasn't really that interested in objects. I was interested in ideas.” - Sol LeWitt


Dan Flavin - “It is what it is and it ain't nothing else.”

Dan Flavin - Rhine-Elbe Science Park - 1996 - Gelsenkirchen, GermanyAmerican Minimalist artist Dan Flavin (1933-1996) won fame for creating objects and installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures. 

He emphatically denied that his sculptural light installations had any kind of transcendent, symbolic, or sublime dimension, stating: "It is what it is and it ain't nothing else.” Nevertheless, potential associations with the concept of light - from religious conversion to intellectual epiphanies - are discernible in Flavin's work, whether or not such interpretations were the artist’s intentions.

Flavin’s light "propositions," which he did not consider sculptures, are made up of standardized, commercially available materials, much like the readymades by Marcel Duchamp, which Flavin very much admired.

One of Flavin's last works was the lighting program featured here. The arcade was designed by Uwe Kiessler; it stretches 980 feet and connects nine buildings.

Many of the artist’s works are permanently installed at Dia - located at 23 Corwith Avenue in Bridgehampton, New York.


Agnes Martin: Grid-Like Abstractions

Agnes Martin - Untitled - 1952 - Watercolor and ink on paper - 11 3/4 x 17 3/4" (29.9 x 45.3 cm) - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (click photo for larger image)Canadian born American painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004) was one of the leading practitioners of Abstract Expressionism in the 20th century. She was a prominent exponent of geometric abstraction. To her eye, a gray grid of intersecting penciled lines became the ultimate geometric composition. Her grid-like works were also noted for their light-soaked appearance and quiet effect. In the 1970s, she produced printed equivalents of her paintings.

Agnes Martin - Little Sister - 1962 - Oil, ink, and brass nails on canvas and wood - 9 7/8 x 9 11/16 inches (25.1 x 24.6 cm) - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (click photo for larger image)Born on a farm in rural, Canada, Agnes Martin immigrated to the United States in 1932. After earning a degree in art education, she moved to the desert plains of Taos, New Mexico. At the urging of New York gallery owner, Betty Parson, Martin moved to lower Manhattan in 1957—living among a community of artists benefiting from the then cheap, expansive loft spaces of Lower Manhattan, located in close proximity to the East River. It was there—and during the next decade—that she would experiment with abstraction, and arrive at her signature style. Martin is often referred to as a Minimalist, however she always referred to herself as an Abstract Expressionist.

Artists are rarely “born” with the style for which they become known. The creative process is evolutionary. While some artists do remain faithful to a particular passion or idea throughout their lives—such as Camille Pissarro (ca. 1830-1903) or Henri Matisse (1869-1954) — others, like Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)  continually change their styles and approaches. As noted from the Untitled work featured here (from 1952)—it took time for Agnes Marin to fully embrace non-representation and the grid! 

The Guggenheim Museum in New York will be hosting an exhibit of Martin’s works, from October 2016 through January 2017. I lead a Museum Preview series for the Center for Continuing Education, and Agnes Martin will be the focus of our October 6, 2016 program. Please check out the website to see the schedule and to register. These programs fully prepare attendees to go to exhibits and visit museum and gallery collections well-informed about the featured artists.


Frank Stella: Pure Minimalism

Frank Stella - Hyena Stomp - 1962 - Alkyd paint on canvas - 77 x 77 in. - Tate Modern, London (click photo for larger image)American Minimalist painter Frank Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, in 1936. He began to paint abstract pictures while at Phillips Academy, Andover. Stella studied history at Princeton University from 1954-58, and also took painting courses at the same time. Stella was influenced earlier on by such artists as Pollock, Kline and Johns. Moving to New York in 1958, he began creating works that reacted against Abstract Expressionism. He became a leading figure in the Minimalist movement, and later became known for his irregularly shaped works and large-scale multimedia reliefs.