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John McCracken: Materialist, Transcendentalist, Minimalist
by Robert C. Morgan


Minimal art and Minimalism imply two different strains within the scope of contemporary American art. For the most part, Minimal art began in New York and was named there (Richard Wolheim, 1965) before it was formalized on the West Coast. Architect Tony Smith, painters Frank Stella and Robert Ryman, dancers Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton, and sculptor Robert Morris (among others) were all on to it by 1961, soon to be followed by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Tricia Brown, and Carl Andre. (Sol LeWitt chose the term “conceptual” to identity his work in 1967 by emphasizing the “idea” over the object.) The earliest affinity to Minimal art in California came from hard-edge painter John McLaughlin, who worked in parallel to New York painters such as Ad Reinhardt, Burgoyne Diller, and Barnett Newman. I would argue that Minimalism offers certain effects previously formalized in concrete terms by artists associated with Minimal art. In most cases, Minimalist artists extended the structural ramparts of Minimal art in original, self-determined, and occasionally idiosyncratic ways. Such artists might include the early Robert Smithson, Robert Irwin, Ronald Bladen, Robert Grosvenor, Larry Bell, Richard Van Buren, and John McCracken. Ironically, these artists—or the work that they did at a particular time—have remained, for the most part, in the parenthesis between Minimal art and Post-minimalism; their work does not appear to have directly impacted artists such as Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Bruce Nauman, and Eva Hesse.

Installation view with Star, Infinite, Dimension, and Electron, 2010.
Stainless steel, 100–110 x 17.5–22 x 10.5–11.75 in.

Photo: Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, NY.

 


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