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Historically Significant Works of Minimalist Art That Helped Define the Genre

Sol-LeWitt-Wall-drawing
Sol LeWitt Wall drawing.

The term "minimalism" refers to an aesthetic movement that you can find in many different areas of creative expression, including art, design, music, and literature. It first appeared in the 1960s in the United States as a response to the abstract expressionism that was prevalent at the time.


The artists who practiced minimalism wanted to move away from the expressive qualities of abstract expressionism because they considered the works of that movement to be overly dramatic and emotional, and they believed that the works took away from the fundamental purpose of art. On the other hand, the work of minimalist artists is characterized by the use of straightforward forms and lines. The observer is left to interpret the works for what they are, a purified version of beauty and truth, as all of the components of expression, biography, difficult issues, and societal agendas have been removed.


As a result of the significant emphasis placed on fundamental components, "ABC Art" was and still is another name for "minimalist art." A substantial number of the most influential Minimalist artists were sculptors. Minimalism also spread to other art forms, such as Land Art, in which artworks are created in landscapes by constructing sculptures on and from the soil. Many of the most notable Minimalist artists were sculptors. The light and space movement was also a component of the minimalist movement, and many artists located their practices at the intersection of the two movements.



Many people believe that Asia is where minimalism originated. This theory is supported by the fact that many Western artists, such as Agnes Martin, have incorporated Zen Buddhism into their practices. The concept of "nothingness," found in Hindu scriptures, was an additional source of inspiration for many artists working in the minimalist movement. Mono-ha was Japan's first internationally recognized trend in contemporary art, considered one of Asia's most influential Minimalist movements. Mono-ha, which translates to "School of Things," was a groundbreaking art movement that began in Tokyo in the middle of the 1960s. 


Here are some of the paintings and sculptures we brought as the most famous minimalist artworks that highlight the genre of minimalism.


1. Untitled (mirrored cubes), 1965–1971 by Robert Morris


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Untitled (mirrored cubes) by Robert Morris (1965–1971). Credit: Pinterest

Robert Morris's "Untitled (mirrored cubes)" represents his work as a Minimalist and a Conceptual artist. While performing with a ballet company, Morris saw they used enormous, grey-painted wooden crates as set pieces. Bringing them to his studio, he covered them in mirrors, enhancing their visual characteristics and changing the surrounding modalities of perception. By circumnavigating these cubes, visitors are confronted by their reflections. The act of staring at an artwork abruptly interrupts the flow of appreciation. Because of this, it has been said to "invade" a gallery, expanding the audience's perception of art beyond its surface.


2. The artwork "With my Back to the World" by Agnes Martin (1997)


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The Agnes Martin series "Back to the World" (1997)

Although the works by Agnes Martin were non-representational, their titles emphasized a connection to the natural world. Martin's paintings, which combine Minimalism and Color Field elements, are recognizable for their gridlike compositions. She employed the grids as an order, producing an unlimited variety of serene, pastel-hued canvases.


Martin spent most of her life in New Mexico, where she practiced Zen Buddhism and Taoism in isolation. She received a schizophrenia diagnosis in her forties. So at an assisted living facility resident, she created "With my Back to the World" in her mid-80s. She began working on smaller canvases as they were easy for her to work on, but her pastel bands of blue, peach, and yellow remained to emphasize how art was apart from the corrupt outside world.


3. Wall Drawings by Sol LeWitt


Sol-LeWitt-Wall-Drawing-No-370-1982.
Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing No 370, 1982.

Wall-Drawing-#1138-by Sol-LeWitt-2004-acrylic-paint-at-Lisson-Gallery-in-London
Wall Drawing #1138 by Sol LeWitt, 2004 (acrylic paint) at Lisson Gallery in London; the work consists of forms comprised of bands of color.

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Sol Lewitt Wall Drawings #481

Throughout his 40-year career, which spanned over 1,200 sites, Sol LeWitt produced 1,350 wall drawings and installed them over 3,500 times. These works ranged from black pencil lead lines, colorful wavy rendering lines, monochrome geometric forms, and vibrant acrylic paint panels. Like many Minimalists, he disregarded the importance of the artist's hand in creating art by permitting others to assist him in its execution. His wall drawings were architectural and artistic investigations, taking on the characteristics of the rooms in which they were created.


Even though Lewitt passed away in 2007, his artistic philosophy lives on through his works. Only a select group of artists now continue to protect his Wall Drawings, enabling them to be displayed in museums and galleries around the globe.


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