The artistic current known as Minimal Art and especially the installations and objects of the representatives of classical 1960s Minimalism—artists such as Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and the recently deceased Sol LeWitt—have made such an impact on the genre that it is often perceived as an autochthonous and purely North American phenomenon. That said, beyond the circumstance of its American birth, perhaps Minimalism does not consist so much in a thematic current but, more likely, in a kind of pluralism that is based, above all, on abstraction, constructivism and formal reduction.
Based on that argument, the exhibition Before and After Minimalism: A Century of Abstract Tendencies in the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection reveals the formal minimalist approaches and typical geometric abstractions of minimalist works in an essentially broader context. What is clear is that the origin of the procedures and methods of minimalist practices should also be sought in the abstract and constructivist tendencies born in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibition reveals the many parallels that exist between the procedures and methods of European and American artists; as much among those of the postwar generation as among those contemporaries who partake in minimalist tendencies or invoke European abstraction and constructivism as their historic predecessors.
Insofar as one contemplates Minimalism from that perspective—more methodological than thematic—it ceases to be solely an American current from the 1960s and emerges as a characteristic, a sort of ‘minimal’ common denominator, in the works of artists of highly diverse periods and places. The exhibition, therefore, is comprised of works that embody the distant ancestors of Minimalism in European abstract painting of the early 20th century, especially in southern Germany. It also features those who have incorporated the traditions, pictorial abstracts and minimalist tendencies of that century and those who continue working with these attributes into the present day on the two continents.
The exhibition includes 64 works by 41 artists. The vast majority are paintings but there are also graphic works, sculptures, installations and videos by European and North American artists, from the earliest works of Adolf Hölzel (1853–1934), noted teacher at the Stuttgart Academy, to artists such as Vincent Szarek (b. 1973).
Further exhibition venue:
Fundación Juan March, Madrid
Feb 9 – May 25, 2008