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147 artworks, 47 artists
Minimalism or minimal art arose as a painting style in the 60s of the 20th century in New York. It became an offshoot of postmodernism with the elements of pop art and suprematism. The artists of the new direction sought to simplify works of art as much as possible and to minimize the number of details and elements. A distinctive feature of minimalism was the preservation of the meaning of a picture, focusing on the artist’s main idea. The new direction called the viewer to meditative contemplation, philosophical and literal view of objects and events, immersion in thought about the essence of things and phenomena. Art historians called the new tendency to asceticism and simplification of painting “cool art”, “systematic painting”, “primary structure” and considered it serial art. Minimalism is a conscious creative self-restriction of the artist, which aims to achieve expressiveness and ease of the image perception, exposing its true meaning.
“Systematic painting” became a challenge in art, a leap in the development of techniques and trends, an antagonist to the complex lines and designs of classical painting. In the 1930s, both the creative elite and the public were tired of the subjectivity of abstract expressionism. The forerunner of minimalism in painting was Kazimir Malevich with his “Black Square” — the apotheosis of the simplification of colour and form. The British philosopher and art critic Richard Walheim named the new style, when in 1965 he analysed and separated the art of the “artists who make their work through the least interference in the outside world”. In the mid-20th century, minimalism gained interest of art connoisseurs as a continuation of the avant-garde movements, seeking to focus the viewer’s attention on detail and meaning being alone on the canvas.
Minimalist artists declared rejection of the complex and versatile in favour of the necessary; they created works of art in which the viewer was not distracted by unnecessary details and independently immersed in the contemplation and perception of the object. “Down with the aesthetics and emotionality of academic painting! Strict form and colour, nothing else is needed” — this is what the minimalist works are like. Artists did not clutter up the canvas with objects, excluded any composition, background and colour transitions. Pure monotonic and saturated colours - black, red, yellow, blue - became popular. Artists emphasized the colour depth with the object’s shape. The paintings of the minimalists lost their subjectivity, the images gravitated to abstraction, and the works lacked subject matter and dynamics. In the focus of the canvas, viewer saw strict and clear geometric shapes, two or three shades with hard colour transitions. The painters provided a chance for everyone who wanted to discover independently or create a hidden subtext, to listen to the internal emotional state and associations. Minimalists sought to erase any boundaries between painting and sculpture through rhythmic geometric shapes, asymmetric images and raw materials. As the trend developed, artists and sculptors preferred to abandon the symbolism and image subtexts, thus a square became just a square.
Minimalist pictures: “California” 1962 by Yves Klein; “Tableau Vert” 1952, “Blue Green Red” 1963 by Ellsworth Kelly; “Venus Forge” 1982 Carl Andre.