In the 1950s and late 1960s, Minimal Art shattered traditional notions of art making by redefining the form, material, and production of the object and its relationship to physical and temporal space and the spectator. Because of this, Minimalism was able to draw attention to the space in which the work is shown; this emphasized the direct engagement with the space and environment as a work in itself. Since then, Minimal Art has helped initiate a turn towards installation practices, a practice that has taken fifty years to emerge.
Minimal Art is where artists made no attempt to represent an outside reality. The artists wanted the spectator to respond to what was only in front of them. The reality would be the form of the work and the medium or material that is used to create the work.
Minimal Art surfaced as a backlash against action painting, espoused by Abstract Expressionism that focused on emotional intensity and personal readings as Minimalism purely relied on single or repeated geometric form, serial patterns, strong concentration of industrial materials, and along with external factors of the spectator and environment.Order now
Minimal Art also challenged and questioned the theory against 20th century American art critic Clement Greenberg, who also supported Abstract Expressionism that modest art is an internally focused investigation of the essential features of each separate medium. He understood that modern art was medium specific and believed that because the history of modernism involved artists exploring the precise nature of their medium, art media should not be mixed.
Both of these disruptions cited turns for the practice of Installation Art by allowing the breakdown of medium specificity and all it meant, as well as the idea that external factors of the spectator and environment play a role in how we experience artworks.
Installation Art can be defined as the placement of objects in a certain context in order to convey a certain feeling, idea or experience. Through their placement, a relationship is created between the objects and the spectator. This relationship transforms the objects from their everyday uses into being a part of a specially created experience.
Installation art was primarily an attempt to give a new meaning to the old materials they literally broke the frames of paintings and liberated them from the age-old traditions of conventional making and viewing of art. They vandalized canvases, they brought found objects to galleries, they transported down sculptures from the pedestals so that the museum quality and thereby the authoritarian quality of the art was violated.
A number of these notions were employed previously into the sculptures by American Minimalist, Carl AndrÐ”©, although his intention was different.
First and foremost, he opposed expressionist painting and concepts by questioning their notions through his work and consciously made sure his works did not reflect his personal touches or manual skills.
He saw the importance bestowed on the hand of the artist in the creation of an artwork as a distraction from the art object itself. Therefore, instead he created objects that were as impersonal and neutral as possible, with the aim that the spectator should have a more pure reaction to the art object itself, looking at the physicality and not the psychology. He achieved this by strictly using industrial materials. He adopts painterly format, and uses commercially available materials or objects that are emotionally cool, blank and prosaic, almost always in identical units or bar forms, such as timber, Styrofoam, cement blocks, bales of hay, etc., with only one type of material per work.
An example of this would be his exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1966. The artist arranged eight rectangular sculptures on the gallery floor, each made of 120 identical fire bricks. Equivalent VII (1966) usually referred to as The Bricks one of eight works, was made two bricks high, six across and ten lengthwise.
In Aluminum-Zinc Dipole E/W (1989), two rectangular plates are placed next to each other to form a square. The seam that joins those runs either longitudinally or laterally, depending on the spectators view. The differing weights of the zinc and aluminum plates and the different resistance of their surfaces to scratching creates tension between the two plates and because of this, it adds a painterly composition to the silvery, blue surface.
The literal flatness of Aluminum-Zinc Dipole ridicules Clement Greenbergs commandments on abstract paintings adherence to flatness. Because the sculpture is flat, and the volume has been abolished, the work appears as pure material and mass.
Minimalist, and advocate writer for Minimalism is Donald Judd. Judd became well known for sleek, boxlike constructions made of industrial materials such as plywood, sheet metal, and Plexiglas that were painted using commercial techniques. Stacked, aligned, cantilevered, or centered, their strict geometric arrangements–often derived from mathematical progressions–eliminate the idea of composition and achieve a singular focus on the object itself. They combine elements of architecture, sculpture, and painting.
Donald Judd’s specific object, Untitled (1965) featured seven rectangular objects made of shiny galvanized sheet metal, each of the exact same dimensions, fastened to the wall in a vertical line. This also challenged Abstract Expressionism, the artwork doesnt show any traces of the artist’s hand, but seems to be mechanically produced. Thus, the work does not appear to be an expression of the artist’s subjective intention, mind or emotions.
With Installation Art, spectators dont view the artwork from afar. Majority of the time, they are quite literally inside it, part and parcel of its environment and content by either; touching, climbing over, walking through, exploring, engaging, rearranging and interfacing with it.
Because of Minimalism, Installation Art has become blas before the conventional modalities of representational art that feature mere paintings hanging on a wall in a room. Minimalists were pitched against the socio-political realities of the 1960s and 1970s. They wanted to break the white cube limitations of a gallery by experimenting with the space. They conceived works of art as something that redefined the meaning of the surroundings where they stood.
Minimalist art directly engages with the space it occupies. The artwork is carefully arranged to emphasize and reveal the architecture of the gallery, often being presented on walls, in corners, or directly onto the floor, encouraging the viewer to be conscious of the space.
Andre once said that what was beautiful in art was “not that someone is original but that he can find a way of creating in the world the instance of his temperament.”
Emplacement, environment, and relativeness are important in all of his works.
“A place is an area within an environment which has been altered in such a way as to make the general environment more conspicuous,” he said. “Everything is an environment, but a place is related particularly to both the general qualities of the environment and the particular qualities of the work which has been done.”
The bricks in Equivalent VIII are humble materials, basic to building, construction, and manufacture; by treating these as sculpture, we begin to view the work’s physical reality as an esthetic phenomenon. And since placement generates and energizes the piece, Equivalent VIII and its surrounding environment become one work of art.
Another Minimalist that drew attention to the surrounding space of his artwork is Robert Morris. He believed that the surrounding space became the artwork itself.
Mirrored Cubes (1965), made from Plexiglas mirrors and wood, as American art critic Rosalind Krauss describes ” the viewer is trapped in the cross fire of the mutual reflections set up by the surfaces of the four facing blocks . . . It is, perhaps, in this work more than any other that seriality is defined as the opposite of progress.”