Minimalism is certainly a style, although not a particularly lavish one. It is definitely less extravagant than those elaborate and decorative styles that went before it. In days before the minimalist style took off, decorating and design had become very intense and actually had begun to interfere with the function of the object or item it represented.
Minimalism in art surfaced in the 1960’s and was very much part of a new wave of artists and interests and new ideas looking to move away from the past. It was an exciting time, a time for change and new possibilities. The chance to experiment with less, to engage in new and exciting artistic endeavors and maybe even to try your luck at winning a
The question many minimalists asked themselves was: how much can you remove or take away from an item or object, buildings, furniture, sculptures or paintings, without the object losing its significance, its purpose?
There are actually a number of ways in which minimalism can be defined.
- Minimalism is considered to be a theory of more abstract painting and sculpture, a way of simplifying a particular object, painting or sculpture. It uses simple shapes and shades of primary colors. Its form is simple, objective and somewhat anonymous. It is often referred to as ABC art, sometimes rejective art and even reductivism.
- Minimalism defined as using a limited number of elements and then, only the essentials, as in design, the arts or literature.
- Minimalism – type of contemporary music – categorized by exceptionally simplified harmonies, rhythms and patterns, repetitions producing a dreamlike effect.
In the late 20th century, Minimalism became particularly influential in many technologies and in all the arts. Minimalism moved beyond the influence of modern art and became popular as a lifestyle. Living with only those things considered essential and getting rid of everything else.
The origins of Minimalism
Minimalism was not born out of poverty or ideas of austerity. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It is often considered to be the style choice of the very wealthy. Sparse but elegant, simple but expensive. Minimalism is somewhat simple in form, with little decoration. However, little decoration does not equal inexpensive.
De Stijl Movement – precursor of Minimalism
This was an artistic movement that began around 1917 in the Netherlands and declined in the 1930s. The Movement’s decline went hand in hand with the death of it’s leading representative, Theo van Doesburg. Although the De Stijl Movement didn’t last for long, it really did lay the groundwork for Minimalism and is considered its predecessor. For instance, it advocated very simple visual works of art, using horizontal and vertical lines and used only primary colors including black and white.
The work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German architect who lived between 1886-1969 who became known for his Minimalist architectural designs. Clean straight lines. In many of our great city skylines it is possible to see the influence of Mies van der Rohe’s designs. New York ad Beijing, to name just two.
Ludwig van der Rohe goal was to produce something simple, precise and beautiful. He favored using glass and steel, using a minimum about of structural frameworks and included lots of open areas, giving a feeling of space.
It is still possible to see his influence today, and not only in the world of architecture. He is known as one of the fathers of Minimalism. It was Van der Rohe who first coined the phrase “Less is More” which has become one of the main tenets of minimalism.
Prior to the influence of the Western World on traditional Japanese design, it also was considered to be a precursor of Minimalism. Traditional Japanese art is admired for its simplicity and clean forms. Only included within the design is that which makes the item or object functional, anything else is discarded.
There are many who are considered to be leaders of the Minimalist style, be it in architecture, design, painting and music. These names include “Buckminster Fuller, Dieter Rams, Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt and Frank Stella.”
Neo-Geo or Neo Minimalism
This is basically the Minimalism style of today. The modern take on minimalism. Referred to as neo-geometric or neo-geo, or neo minimalism. It is of course still all about simplicity and clean lines but, as opposed to traditional minimalists, it incorporates additional shapes and colors. However, neo minimalism still holds true to the basic minimalist principles but has moved beyond only using primary colors, although the colors are still quite limited, and using only squares, vertical and horizontal lines.
Colors and Shapes used in Minimalism
You will not find complicated shapes and a huge range of colors used in Minimalism. Minimalism is about simplicity and paring down. At different times, different colors and different shapes have come to be used but the shades and shapes are still fairly limited, although today the palette is a little richer.
Type style in Minimalism
The fonts used in Minimalism are also very simple, clean and basic with very little decoration. You will rarely see serifs used. These are far too decorative.
For instance, “Helvetica” is often the font used to represent anything minimalist or modern. Helvetica was introduced in 1957 and actually compared to some of the fonts of today is not that simple but in 1957 most of the fonts were high decorative.
Another basic font connected with minimalism is Mr. Phone. In each letter, a very limited vocabulary of shapes is used in its formation. It is a fairly new font, created in 1997 and is definitely imbued with the spirit of minimalism.
Brad Ulrich, an Oklahoma designer, took a new approach in 2008, in trying to create a very unique minimalist font. He experimented by stripping away much of each letter, and leaving just an impression of the former letter. The ‘o’ and ‘t’ remain the same but most of the letters have lost their former selves, there arms and legs, but are for the most part still recognizable.
There are many minimalist templates as designers are particularly interested in producing minimalist templates. Less Templates, for instance, are basically one page and are devoid of any decoration considered unnecessary. The focus being on the message or text.
Minimalism in our modern world
Another clear example of Minimalism in Design is Craigslist. This is probably the most popular site when searching for something. It is all about functionality. It is very straightforward and well structured, including the colors used. No distractions, just the message and text.
Architecture in the modern world
There are so many examples of Minimalist architecture in our modern world. For instance, from the 20th century in Chicago, the IBM Plaza and in the 21st century, the House Grangegorman. There are many versions of minimalist architecture.
Minimalism offers us much in the way of appreciating the beauty in simplicity.