Space, Body and Meaning in Minimalist Art
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This paper is an attempt to characterize minimalist art by reference to opinions expressed by its commentators, critics and artists themselves. The inquiry is conducted by focusing on the modernist and formalist conception of art as proposed by Clement Greenberg. Minimalism is the pivotal point in the development of modernist abstract art. It satisfies postulates put forward by Greenberg, even if abstract art has departed from abstract thought by placing itself in opposition to such interpretations of esthetic perception which say that art emerges from and is constituted only by formal structures of the works of art. Minimalist productions rely on simplicity and spatial arrangement of elements. They are not designed to draw one's attention to formal properties of artistic masterpieces but aim at directing all interest to the surroundings in order to highlight the background and make the audience aware of its own position. In minimalism, the logic of arrangement is more important than the form of the whole. Moreover, any actual arrangement is open to modifications, which in principle are independent of the character of the components involved. Thus minimalism goes beyond the classical conception of the work of art as an esthetic whole based on compositional order and at the same time it reaches beyond the modernist attempt to discover the 'truth in the material'. The minimalists create 'situations' rather than complete works of art. They are not interested in esthetic effects produced by complete works, but instead they emphasize differences and tensions between knowledge and perception of the audience, between their conceptions and actual experience. The more embodied attitude minimal-art demanded that replaced the former formalist 'pure opticality' resulted in part from the inspiration of Merleau-Ponty's 'Phenomenology of Perception'. According to some further commentators, this particular view, which was centered on the living body and its sensations, resulted in a kind of 'desocialization' of the body and 'decontextualization' of minimalist works. Thus, these abstract arrangements were often constituting spaces and situations of their own, rather than playing with given places and their cultural meanings.
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