minimalism

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

minimalism

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 form, with composers rejecting many of the dry intellectual complexities and the emotional sterility of serial music and other modern forms. 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 prominent minimalist composers are Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and John Adams.

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