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Minimalism: “What you see IS what you see”

The word “minimalism” is often used in a contemporary
culture and various media sources. Many of us understand the approximate
meaning of the term; but when it comes to art, sometimes it is hard to give the
exact definition of it. So what exactly does this movement stand for? One
thing we can tell for sure – there are not many things involved.

First thing we need to state – minimalism is a vast
movement that covers numerous fields such as music, architecture, fashion,
design, literature, and, of course, art world. When talking about minimalism,
it is essential to specify your sphere of interest.  

Minimalism in visual arts emerged in the 1960s-70s in
New York. The movement is also called “literalist art", “Cool art”, “Object
art” or “ABC Art” due to the implement of simplified forms. Artists
tried to get rid of any unnecessary elements to come down to the very essence
of subjects. The movement was a reaction to the domination of abstract expressionism
at the time.

Of course, we can immediately build the connections
with the previous movements. For example, what could be considered as the first
minimalist work? Yes, it is the same old Malevich’s Black Square. Minimalists were inspired by Russian constructivism
and drew inspiration from the constructive forms and objects (let us not forget
who brought art world’s attention to the real-life objects). Question number
two goes like this: “Who were the precursors of the minimalism?” Right, the
Cubists.          

“We cubists
have only done our duty by creating a new rhythm for the benefit of humanity.
Others will come after us who will do the same. What will they find? That is
the tremendous secret of the future. Who knows if someday, a great painter,
looking with scorn on the often brutal game of supposed colorists and taking
the seven colors back to the primordial white unity that encompasses them all,
will not exhibit completely white canvases, with nothing, absolutely nothing on
them.” This foreseeing quote by Cyril Berger in the article on Cubism in Paris-Journal
29 May 1911, says it all. Minimalists took the notions of Cubists to embrace
another view of the reality and took it even further.    

Minimalists refused from any symbolism and expression
in their works.  They draw attention to
forms and representation, questioning the borders of art aesthetics. They experimented
with viewer’s perception of weight, height, light, and created works that were
challenging our preconceived ideas of these dimensions. They also wanted to
avoid any biographical interpretation of their works, with no metaphors or
allusions in their oeuvre.

Minimalist artist Carl Andre called his works a “plastic
poetry” and it is just perfect description of the movement in general. The
simplified aesthetic of minimal art is a point of self-awareness, a point of
creating space, of pitting a raw essence of art at our observation. With no
tricks or games, it represents itself – the geometry, the structures, the
space.

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