Minimalism Life

Creating art is hard work; limiting oneself to the essence of a creative thought is even harder. A recent group exhibition of works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Blinky Polermo, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, and On Kawara left me reconsidering the purpose of why we choose to use, keep, and live with things and its relationship to how we fill our inhabited spaces.

Minimalism’s ongoing quest toward the essential elicits the seemingly mandatory coordination of form without its function derived for symbolic or imagistic purposes. Combinations and arrangements of color, line, shape, space, texture, and volume art are represented as pure; unencumbered by associative qualities. In the words of Frank Stella, “What you see, is what you see.”

These artists presented their view of the world in the most succinct way they knew possible. They mercilessly removed and distilled their vision down to its essential form.

The most modest example of this was Fred Sanback’s Untitled (Fourteen-part Vertical Construction), 1987. Here, Sandback showcases 14 strings tautly strung ceiling to the floor showing the expansiveness of volumetric space. With just basic yarn he created value and beauty. Nothing spectacular, expensive, flashy, or inaccessible; just basic yarn found at the craft store.

Minimalist art and power lie within its viewer, they are implicitly interwound in the artwork’s creation and completion. Each artist has provided the organization of material in a succinct form, we then cast our interpretations and associations onto the lifeless form. Much like we do with our belongings.

Perhaps, we too can be more like these seminal artists in our own way during this spring-cleaning season. We can take this seasonal stab at reexamining our homes as a chance to mercilessly omit or part ways with what is not a part of the story we tell ourselves and others. It could be time for you to scrupulously interrogate every cup, throw pillow, tchotchke, book, coffee table, light fixture, doorknob, molding trim, house plant, and everything else left unsaid. This is not a call for dismantling our ivory thrones; even if they are MDF board cladded in faux marble stick-on veneer. There is no need to discard what you already have if it works for you.

However, it may be worth asking, is it really want you wanted? Is it really helping to tell the story you want to tell? Do I want to continue telling this story the next time I need to bring something into my life?

Many things are ready to be cycled in and out with the new season. Things have been collected and may now be ready to be consumed, discarded, shared, sold, or donated. It may be time for you to embrace the act of pairing down, teasing out, and finding value in the power of less.