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Minimalism and Conceptual Art in the mid-20th Centry Art
Group Show

21 Jun - 18 Sep, 2022

Group Show

Statement : 

The Destiny of Art Object

The present exhibition revolves around the two decisive movements in art history, i.e., Minimalism and Conceptual art as well as their influences and derivations. The two movements established a new and unprecedented course in the history of visual arts in the mid-twentieth century and changed the conventional definitions of a work of art as an aesthetic object; a legacy that remained in art history after these movements saw its peak. This exhibition introduces and examines instances of these movements, their backgrounds, groundwork, as well as their legacies and influences.

Although the two movements emerged and peaked back in the late 50s and the late 70s, the exhibition begins with Dadaist art in the 1920s. The reason for this decision is that Dadaism initiates a course that questions the adherence to the conventional standards and definitions of art. ///

The works created by Man Rey and Marcel Duchamp were among the early distinctive examples of disregarding the importance of objecthood, challenging art history, and questioning whether the value of a work of art lies in its appearance and objecthood or is it valued based on ideas, and liberates the mind by transcending limits and disregarding rules. Furthermore, at the end of the exhibition, some Neo-Dada and Pop art pieces are displayed as examples to show their eclectic combination with Minimal and Conceptual approaches.

Minimalism emerged as a visual art movement in New York in the early 1960s. Although the Minimalist aesthetic was developed in architecture, particularly with the theories and works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (less is more) in the early 1940s, it had no fundamental theoretical link with visual arts before the publication of Richard Wollheim's (the British philosopher) essay titled, Minimal Art in 1965. Minimalism arose as a rebellious movement in response to the formal, expressive, and metaphorical complexities of abstract arti particularly, Abstract Expressionism. The artists who established this movement believed the abstract art of the twentieth century to be academic and obsolete, showing interest in newer and industrial materials. They preferred convenience and simplicity to flamboyance and complexity, avoiding symbolic, ambiguous, metaphorical, and emotional contents and focusing on fundemental geometric forms, material, and spatial aspects. 

The famous phrase "less is more" just-about describes the totality of Minimalism; however, there is more to be said and considered in this art movement. It can also be described as reductive, simple, pristine, smooth, and devoid of technical or aesthetic indications. Minimalism does not intend to mean anything other than what meets the eyes, rejecting any metaphors or implications beyond what is visible. A Minimalist work, whether it is a painting or sculpture, is created with geometric shapes, plain colors, and industrial materials. Forms are very simple, and contrary to the dominant movements of the twentieth century, there is no aesthetic twists or expressive acts. Minimalist artists avoid the appealing traditional process of creating art, expressing personal emotions, and narrativity. Instead, they focus on depth and space as a context for the presence of the audience. In reality, they set aside the importance of "self" and emphasized the significance of “space.” Expecting a Minimalist work to create a particular emotional or meaningful connection results from your personal presumptions about a work of art. The one important connection in a Minimalist work is its relationship with the space it occupies. Minimalist sculptures are mainly placed on the floor, not on pedestals. Thus, Minimalist art highlights impersonality and placement rather than emphasizing an artist-oriented show.

Conceptual art emerged as an art movement in the 1960s, criticizing the predominant modern movement and its preoccupation with aesthetics. This movement prefers "idea" to visual or material values, technicality, and aesthetics.

Rather than adhering to stylistic cohesion and the traditional materials of modern art, Conceptual artists turned to different tools and methods of creating art such as writing, performance, second-hand images, ready-mades, videos, and whatever previously had no value or history as artistic materials. Conceptual artists used everything that was devoid of the dominant aesthetic and material values of the art of their time, which they found suitable to express their ideas.

The works and writings of Conceptual artists from the mid-1960s strongly rejected the conventional standards of art, adopting a standpoint on the approach that an "idea of art" is a work of art in itself. This means the idea is a fundamental and essential principle in artistic creation. Common concerns like aesthetics, expression, technique, creativity, and originality in form as well as material value and marketability, are irrelevant criteria by which art is judged. In other words, according to Conceptual artists, the idea must not be reduced to the conventionally accepted visual and material values. Using linguistic, mathematical, and process-oriented possibilities, they experimented with the notion of art as idea.

Conceptual artists linked their works to Marcel Duchamp's ideas, who by substituting artistic materials and techniques with ready-mades, defying the conventional definition of a work of art. Like Duchamp, they believed that art is essentially conceptual. Most of them reduced the material presence of their work to an absolute minimum. People like Lucy Lippard refer to this as the “dematerialization" of art. Although many of them were inspired by the simplicity of Minimalism or geometric abstraction, they opposed the Minimalists' convention of painting and sculpture as the main approach to artistic creation. To Conceptual artists, art is no longer required to mimic a traditional artwork or even take on a physical form.
Conceptual artists, like earlier modernists, created.art for art's sake, experimenting with the entity and language of art. Most of Conceptual works are self-referential (here, the word self denotes art). However, they questioned the materialistic evaluations within modern art through minimizing the use of materials, employing worthless materials, and even texts, transcending the limits imposed on the "idea of art“ by modern aesthetics.

The success of the early 20th-century avant-gardism within the heart of the elitist modern art resulted in a plethora of "ism"s. In the mid-20th century, anyone could create an "ism". Many artists for their promoters) followed this path to make their personal style and exclusive methods a market success and definitively recorded in art history. However, the Conceptual artists of the 1960s rejected this naming convention as well as that well-trodden, direct path to success. They preferred to substitute - the term "conceptualism" with "Conceptual art" so as to not repeat the history of the rigid modernist avant-gardes.
Behrang Samadzadegan

Read More :

 Interview with Behrang Samadzadegan About the "Minimalism and Conceptual Art" Show 

Curator: Behrang Sanadzadegan

Installation view