minimalism, schools of contemporary art and music, with their origins in the 1960s, that have emphasized simplicity and objectivity.

Minimalism in the Visual Arts

Reacting against the formal excesses and raw emotionalism of abstract expressionism, the practitioners of minimal art (also sometimes called ABC art) strove to focus attention on the object as an object, reducing its historical and expressive content to the bare minimum. Many minimalist artists were sculptors concerned with reducing form to its utmost simplicity. They used flat surface colors, factory finishes, and industrial materials. The use of serial repetitions contributed to their goal. Artists such as Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and Dan Flavin were associated with the movement. The exhibition "Primary Structures," held in New York in 1966, spotlighted works of this school. Minimalism gave rise to process art, land art, performance art, conceptual art, and installation art.

Minimalism in Music

In music, the minimalist movement was, like minimal art, a reaction against a then-current style, with composers rejecting many of the dry intellectual complexities and the emotional sterility of serial music and other modern compositional approaches. Generally, minimalist compositions tend to emphasize simplicity in melodic line and harmonic progression, to stress repetition and rhythmic patterns, and to reduce historical or expressive reference. The use of electronic instruments is common in minimalist music, as are influences from Asia and Africa. Among minimalist composers are the more prominent Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and John Adams and the less well-known Terry Jennings, Dennis Johnson, and Julius Eastman.


See K. Gann et al., Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music (2013).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Minimalism: Selected full-text books and articles

A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art By Ian Chilvers Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: "Minimal Art" begins on p. 395
American Artists on Art from 1940 to 1980 By Ellen H. Johnson Westview Press, 1982
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Minimal Art"
Irreplaceable Hue By Schwabsky, Barry Artforum International, Vol. 33, No. 1, September 1994
Carl Andre By Sylvester, David Artforum International, Vol. 36, No. 4, December 1997
Minimalist Fantasies By Kimball, Roger New Criterion, Vol. 21, No. 9, May 2003
Sculpture since 1945 By Andrew Causey Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Minimalism and Melody" begins on p. 209
Modern Music and After By Paul Griffiths Oxford University Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: "Minimalism and Melody" begins on p. 209
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