Minimalism, also labeled as ‘ABC Art’, ‘Rejective Art’, ‘Literalism’, is a style of art emerged in 1960s postwar America as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. Minimal art is generally abstract-looking, three-dimensional and geometric in form, monochromatic in colour palettes, emphasizing simplicity as a whole. It influences extend throughout fashion, architecture, theatre and even music. Minimalism could be regarded as one of the most influential art style in the second-half of the twentieth century as “it substantially changed what art could look like, how it could be made and what it could be made from (Batchelor, 1997, p. ). ” Comparatively, Cristobal Balenciaga could be considered as the innovator of contemporary fashion with his notion of fashion – “An architect for design, a sculpture for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for temperance. ” This essay is going to investigate the works of the key minimalist artists, simultaneously analyzing the similarities and differences between the minimalist sculptors from 1965 to 1975 and the recent collections of Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere.
Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol Le Witt and Robert Morris were considered as the main artists that brought about the existence of the Minimal Art, ironically they never acknowledged themselves with the designation of the term ‘Minimal Art’ (Batchelor, 1997, p. 6). To a certain extent, the sculptural works executed by these artists were in distinct directions and forms; yet, at the meantime, they shared various common elements. Carl Andre’s work was characterized by repetition of elements, simple and unadorned form and the use of common everyday items.
He employed forms of rectangle and square such as house bricks, steel tiles or woods as materials and manipulated them to create a new form of art. Andre’s sculpture always teemed with flexibility as he believed that by expanding or reducing an individual element, a new dimension and shape will be emerged. The Equivalent VIII (1966) could be seen as a representative example that fulfils his notion of sculpture (Williams, 1998, p. 329). Dan Flavin had a distinct style among other minimalist artist. He claimed his work as ‘proposals’ and objected to be labeled as traditional sculptures (Batchelor, 1997, p. 5). He favoured in the use of coloured fluorescent lights where they were installed on the gallery walls. The lights were often arranged in a specific geometric form and patterns to generate a sense of rhythm. With the reflection of shadow that casted onto the plain wall, a special and unusual optical effect will be projected. One such example is the Monument for V. Tatlin, 1969 which was made to pay homage to the Russian artist Tatlin who wanted to marry art with science (Williams, 1998, p. 330). Donald Judd began his proper three-dimensional modular compositions in around 1966.
His work often featured with repeated assembled units in which they were organized in identical intervals; utilizing industrial materials such as aluminum, brass, galvanized iron or steel, and sometimes applied unitary colour paint to form coherency in his work (Batchelor, 1997, p. 42). Untitled (1969) could be regarded as the hallmark of Donald Judd. Ten identical and interchangeable steel boxes protruded from the wall were placed equally apart, incorporating the floor and ceiling into the composition of the sculpture.
This work had given a new dimension and perception to the public towards the sculpture (Williams, 1998, p. 328). The notion of So Le Witt’s work is to ‘remove the skin altogether and reveal the structure. ’ He planned the equal and square modules in advance so as to create a linkage in his structures. The surface of the structures was painted in white colour to originate a ‘hard and industrial’ outlook (Batchelor, 1997, p. 35). Le Witt’s structures were linear and transparent to illustrate pure exteriority.
This could be comprehended in his structure “Five Modular Structures (Sequential Permutations on the Number Five)” which was made in 1972 (Batchelor, 1997, p. 11). On the other hand, Robert Morris advocated the use of simple forms to create strong gestalt sensations in his installations (Batchelor, 1997, p. 11). His installations were set up with part-by-part composition while sometimes also establish internal asymmetric balance. Details, colour or surface variations were eliminated to reinforce simplicity and uniformity, simultaneously brought about a sensuous effect of light and space to the viewer.
Such effect was evidenced in Untitled (1965/71) which is an installation of four identical cubic units made of mirror plate glass and wood (Batchelor, 1997, p. 12). Apparently, the works made by the minimalist artist were typically abstract in perception, three-dimensional in form, geometric in shape, monochromatic in colour, preconceived in design and innovative in art. Analogously, the recent collections of Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga were expressing the same perception in different form.
On March 16, 2008, Los Angeles Times staff writer Moore commented Balenciaga Fall 2008 ready-to-wear collection that: “It was modern yet faithful to the house’s couture roots; technically innovative with stiff, athletic-inspired materials yet quietly elegant and artistic. ” The show was sparked off with architectural black, waisted dresses featured with straight or V-shaped neckline, armband sleeves and a slit skirt which entirely punctuate a bold and strong sculptural silhouette. Ghesquiere (2008) himself explained that “There was a 3-D aspect.
I wanted people to be able to turn around in the clothes, so every part was different depending on how you look at it. Wool crepe, gabardine and felt were mixed with foam or jersey to make them look like neoprene or something more thick. That’s where the newness is, in the manipulation of the fabric. ” Besides, they pay a lot of attention to the inner details such as the ‘architectural’ panel lines, the organization of the seams and the composition of the colour tones, which all means to strive for a futuristic collection.
Correspondingly, the works made by the minimalist artist were in three-dimensional composition emphasizing simplicity. “The simple forms are not complicated by dynamic or unstable arrangement, and nor is there any added ornamentation. ” They were both making a breakthrough in which the minimalist artists were challenging the traditional definition of sculpture while Ghesquiere was seeking for innovative fabrication so as to establish modernity in fashion. The Minimalist sculptors often apply monochromatic colour palettes.
Morris has used grey in most of his work; Le Witt painted his structures in white; while Judd used unitary coloured acrylic sheet except Flavin generally employed his proposals with multi-coloured fluorescent tubes. Likewise the outfits in the collection were chiefly retained in a singular colour tone such as black, grey or metallic excluding the landscape printed finale dresses. Furthermore, both minimalist artist and Ghesquiere also laid stress on the importance of hand-made in their works to a certain extent.
According to Ghesquiere(2008), the landscape-printed dress was inspired by the Chinese screens and it was done by hand-painting by specialist from interior decoration and fine arts. Ghesquiere also tried something different on textures, he said, “…Latex is natural but not really precious. But then I thought about the way we look at Bakelite from the 1950s today, as if it was a precious thing. And I thought how are we going to look at latex in 25 years, now that there is such an issue around petroleum, and will we even still have it? It could become very rare. He then chose to use hand-painting to reflect precious. Drawings were first did on latex and molded into plates; the works were then took out and hand-painted. In addition, inspired by the paintings of El Greco, Ghesquiere also draped the velvet and taffeta tops in a natural way to give a spontaneous look in the outfits (Ghesquiere, 2008). To the minimalist, they assemble and arranged their work by welded, screwed, glued, bolted or simply stacked their work instead of carved it, yet the works were all done by themselves as they believed that to be faithful to art – hand-made is essential (Batchelor, 1997, p. 3). To conclude, there were numbers of similarities but only a few insignificantly differences between the minimalist sculptors and the recent Balenciaga collection. Their similarities far outweigh their differences on the basis of their same approach to the monochromatic colour scheme, three-dimensional sculpture shape, architectural and geometric lines and their intention of innovation towards art and design.
In today’s fashion world, many contemporary fashion designers were gradually paying closer attention to the minimalistic style, it could be anticipated that such style will become one of the main trends in fashion in the coming future. Bibliography: Batchelor, D. (1997). Minimalism. London: Tate Gallery Publishing. http://www. style. com/fashionshows/collections/F2008RTW/complete/thumb/BALENCIA Moore, B. (2008, March 16). The Futurist. Los Angeles Times, p. 6-7 Williams, D. (1998). From caves to canvas: an introduction to Western art (2nd ed. ). Sydney: McGraw-Hill.