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Objects & Ideas: Revisiting Minimalism

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


11 Apr 1997 to 22 Jun 1997


Carl Andre, Stephen Bram, Janet Burchill, Ian Burn, Peter Cripps, Richard Dunn, Mikala Dwyer, Dan Flavin, Gail Hastings, Robert Hunter, Tim Johnson, Donald Judd, Sol Le Witt, Stephen Little, Robert Macpherson, John Nixon, Kerrie Poliness, David Rosetzky, Imants Tillers


Linda Michael

about the exhibition

Objects & Ideas: Revisiting Minimalism traced the legacy of Minimalism from the 1960s to the 1990s. Works by key American artists of the 1960s, from the John Kaldor Collection, were presented alongside the works of Australian artists, showing a variety of responses to minimalist art. The exhibition highlighted a number of works from the MCA Collection and offered an opportunity to consider an important art movement in terms of its origins, influence, and resonance with contemporary art.

Minimalism emerged as a movement in American art in the early 1960s, and was typified by the work of artists such as Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. These artists produced abstract art that was distinguished by a cool, geometric refinement and austerity. Complex compositions were avoided – the single unit was emphasised, often repeated in a series or grid. Minimalism was not just an aesthetic style, but also indicated a set of specific ideas and theories about art shared by artists associated with the movement. These included an understanding of the materiality of the art object as anti-illusionistic and self-reflexive.

Minimalism had a strong impact in its time, and continues to be highly influential on contemporary art practice. Its influence on Australian artists was also strongly felt, with artists such as John Nixon, Tim Johnson, Peter Cripps and Imants Tillers adopting the pared-down aesthetic and formal aspects of Minimalism while opening up the more rigid ‘rules’ of the movement to different complexities of meaning. In the 1990s, artists such as Mikala Dwyer, Gail Hastings and David Rosetzky were rediscovering the formal qualities of Minimalism by appropriating and reworking ideas of form and presentation in ways that were often at odds with the purist objectivity of minimal art.