(1928-1994) carries the
implications of Primary Structures to their logical conclusion:
Minimalism. Unlike Environmental Sculpture, his works serve to
articulate interior space without shaping it. In search of the ultimate
unity, he separated Smith's Cubi into its two components,
reducing the geometry to a single cube or cylinder. Judd established the
proportions through precise mathematical formulas and eliminated any
hint of personal intervention by contracting the work out to industrial
fabricators. Having gained total control over all his elements, he soon
began to elaborate on them. The most involved pieces produce a
decorative opulence by repeating the shape serially at set intervals and
adding an intense primary color to one or more sides (fig.
1147). Judd's strict guidelines
permit few variations, only greater refinement, but within these
limitations the results are often impressive. Why this should be so is
not easily explained, although the artist is an eloquent spokesman. In
the end, the success of his work depends on its subtle proportions and
flawless finish, which enable him to achieve a degree of perfection
attained by few other sculptors who share the same approach.
Copper with red plexiglass;
ten units, 23 x
Courtesy of The Pace Gallery, New York
Donald Judd, in full Donald Clarence Judd (born June 3,
1928, Excelsior Springs, Mo., U.S.—died Feb. 12, 1994, New
York, N.Y.), American artist and critic associated with
minimalism. Credited as minimalism’s principal spokesman,
Judd wrote what is considered to be one of the most
significant texts of the movement, Specific Objects (1965).
The article laid out the minimalist platform of stressing
the physical, phenomenological experience of objects rather
than representing any metaphysical or metaphoric symbolism.
Judd’s sculpture was based almost exclusively on the box
form—either alone or in series of modules, on the wall or on
the floor—with artworks varying in colour, material, scale,
proportion, and number. Like other minimalists of his
generation, Judd was preoccupied with the use of industrial
materials and their placement in specific arrangements and
sites. He never referred to himself as a sculptor but rather
as a maker of specific objects.
Judd attended the Art Students League in
New York City from 1948 to 1953 and then Columbia
University, where in 1953 he graduated cum laude with a B.S.
in philosophy. From 1959 to 1965 he wrote art criticism for
several American art magazines. Interested in the scale and
physicality of the reigning Abstract Expressionists, Judd
began his work as an artist by painting. Though he retained
a lifelong interest in the aesthetics of painting, in 1962
he abandoned the medium as too illusionistic and turned to
relief sculpture and then freestanding work. He worked with
industrial materials such as transparent coloured plastics
and anodized aluminum, and he had much of his work
industrially fabricated to obtain a perfect finish and
remove all association with the handmade. After 1980 his
sculptures began to take up more space and became more
complex; some of his modular units achieved a length of 80
feet (24 metres). In 1981 he moved to West Texas, where in
1986 he opened a contemporary art museum, the Chinati
Foundation, in the town of Marfa. The 340-acre (138-hectare)
site features permanent installations by Judd and a number
of other artists, including Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain,
Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov,
Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, David
Rabinowitch, and John Wesley.
A number of sculptors gradually began to move away from
Minimalism without entirely renouncing it. This trend, called
Post-Minimalism to denote its continuing debt to the earlier style, has
as its leading exponent Joel Shapiro (born
After fully exploring the possibilities of small
pieces having great conceptual intensity and aesthetic power, he
suddenly began to produce sculptures of simple wood beams that refer to
the human figure but do not directly represent it. They assume active
"poses," some standing awkwardly off-balance, others dancing or
tumbling, so that they charge the space around them with energy. Shapiro
soon began casting them in bronze, which retains the impress of the
rough wood grain (fig. 1148).
These are hand-finished with a beautiful patina by
skilled artisans, reasserting the craftsmanship traditional to
sculpture. By freely rearranging the vocabulary of David Smith, who
actually experimented with a similar figure before his death, Shapiro
has given Minimalist sculpture a new lease on life. Nevertheless, his
remains one of the few successful attempts at reviving contemporary
sculpture, which as a whole has found it especially difficult to seek a
1148. Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Bronze, 257.8 x
North Carolina Museum of Art
Joel Shapiro (born 1941 New York City, New York) is an
American sculptor renowned for his dynamic work composed of
simple rectangular shapes. Shapiro is represented by The
Pace Gallery in New York. He lives and works in New York
City, with a summer house on the shore of Lake Champlain, in
Westport, New York. He is married to the artist Ellen
Joel Shapiro grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York. When he
was twenty two he lived in India for two years while in the
Peace Corps. He received a B.A. in 1964 and an M.A. in 1969
from New York University
While serving his Peace Corp time in India, Shapiro saw many
Indian art works, and has said that “India gave me the sense
of … the possibility of being an artist.” In India “Art was
pervasive and integral to the society”, and he has said that
"the struggle in my work to find a structure that reflects
real psychological states may well use Indian sculpture as a
model." His early work is characterized by some by its small
size, but Shapiro has discounted this perception, describing
his early works as, “all about scale and the small size was
an aspect of their scale”. He described scale as “A very
active thing that’s changing and altering as time unfolds,
consciously or unconsciously,” and, "a relationship of size
and an experience. You can have something small that has big
scale.” In these works he said that he was trying "to
describe an emotional state, my own longing or desire”. He
also said that during this early period in his career he was
interested in the strategies of artists Robert Morris,
Richard Serra, Carl Andre, and Donald Judd. His later works
can have the appearance of flying, falling, being impossibly
suspended in space, and/or defying gravity. He has said
about this shift in his work that he "wanted to make work
that stood on its own, and wasn’t limited by architecture
and by the ground and the wall and right angles.”
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Joel Shapiro. Unfitted.
Minimalism was also a decisive influence on a group of talented
African-American sculptors who came to maturity in the
contribution has only recently begun to receive critical attention.
Their work has helped to make the late twentieth century the first great
age of African-American art. While the artists themselves show a variety
of style, subject matter, and approach, all address the black experience
in America within a contemporary abstract aesthetic. Thus they have the
advantage over African-American painters, who have often been burdened
by representationalism and traditional styles.
Martin Puryear (born
the leading black sculptor on the scene today, draws on
his experience with the woodworkers of both Sierra Leone in western
Africa, where he spent several years in the Peace Corps, and Sweden,
where he attended the Royal Academy. Puryear manages to weld these
disparate sources into a seamless unity. He adapts African motifs and
materials to the modem Western tradition, relying on meticulous
craftsmanship to bridge the gap. His forms, at once bold and refined,
have an elegant simplicity that contrasts the natural and man-made, the
finished and unfinished. They may evoke a saw, bow, fishnet, anthill, or
in this case a basket (fig. 1149)—whatever
his memory suggests—
restated in whimsical fashion.
1149. Martin Puryear. The Spell.
1985. Pine, cedar, and
steel, 142.2 x 213.4
x 165.1 cm.
Courtesy Donald Young
Martin Puryear (born May 23, 1941) is an African American
sculptor. He works in media including wood, stone, tar, and
wire, and his work is a union of minimalism and traditional
Martin Puryear was born in Washington, D.C., and he spent
his youth studying practical crafts, learning how to build
guitars and furniture. He received a B.A. from The Catholic
University of America in 1963 and was a Peace Corps
volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966. In the late
1960s, he studied printmaking in Sweden and assisted a
master cabinet-maker. He entered the Yale University
graduate sculpture program in 1968.
His first solo exhibition was held in the
late 1970s at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In the 1980s he
participated in two Whitney Biennials and received a
Guggenheim Fellowship. He received a MacArthur Foundation
Fellowship in 1989.
In 2003, he served on the Jury for the
World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
presented a 30-year survey of Puryear's work in 2008-2009.
The presentation included "a special installation in the
Haas Atrium including Ladder for Booker T. Washington
(1996), made from a 36-foot-long split sapling, and Ad Astra
(2007), a 63-foot-tall work that rises to the museum's
Martin Puryear. Bower. 1980.
Sitka spruce and pine, 162.6 x 240.7 x 67.6 cm.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C
Martin Puryear. Plenty's Boast. 1995
Tyrone Mitchell (born
like Puryear, spent a pivotal sojourn in Africa, where
Dogon culture had a profound impact on him. His mature work presents a
flawless synthesis of Western and African sources. Horn for Wilfredo
(fig. 1150) reduces an
antelope to its essence using Minimalist forms and the spare simplicity
of Brancusi, who influenced him at the beginning of the 1980s.
Yet the diversity of materials creates a rich array of
textures and colors that shows the artist's respect for time-honored
materials and craftsmanship. This compound object, we realize, is
suffused with a vital energy that makes of it a Surrealist creature.
Indeed, the title refers to the Cuban-born Surrealist Wilfredo Lam
(1902-1982), an important
early inspiration for Mitchell.
1150. Tyrone Mitchell. Horn for
Wood, copper, plaster, and pigment, 165 x
Collection of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture,
The New York Public Library, Art and Artifacts Division
Melvin Edwards (born
who has also paid homage to Lam, was equally affected by
his visits to Africa. He may be regarded as the purist among
contemporary African-American sculptors. An artist in the mold of David
Smith, he continues to maintain an allegiance to the Primary Structure
and the vocabulary of Minimalism, but invests them with uniquely
personal meaning and social content. To Listen (fig.
1151) is a totemic figure
reminiscent of Moore's Two Forms (fig.
1141) in its elemental shape but with the rugged
strength that defines Edwards' work. Attached to it is the fragment of a
chain, a favorite motif which recurs in his "Lynch Fragment Series"—small
works that radiate a truly frightening menace. In addition to denoting
slavery, however, the chain has a positive meaning for the artist, to
whom it signifies links with the past and the larger community.
Likewise, abstraction helps him get in touch with his roots while
providing a common ground of experience. In this he is close to the
painter William T. Williams,
a personal friend. Edwards revels in the labor of
sculpture, the very feel of metal, which is reflected in the vigorous,
handmade finish, a further debt to Smith. The result is a powerful
monument to the African-American struggle for freedom and equality that
possesses the dignity of the man himself and reflects the artist's
strong sense of social responsibility.
1151. Melvin Edwards. To Listen.
Stainless steel, 227.3 x 39.3
x 93.9 cm.
Courtesy CDS Gallery, New York
Mel Edwards (born 1937) is an American sculptor, based in
New York City. He has had more than a dozen one-person show
exhibits and been in over four dozen group shows. He has had
solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in
New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey. His works,
characterised by the use of straight-edged triangular and
rectilinear forms, often have a political content.
Edwards is a graduate for the University of Southern
California and also studied at Los Angeles City College, and
the Los Angeles County Art Institute.
In 1964, he began teaching at San
Bernardino Valley College. He went on to teach at the
Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the
Arts), the Orange County Community College in New York, and
the University of Connecticut. His first one-person
exhibition was held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art,
Santa Barbara, California, in 1965. In 1972 he began
teaching at Rutgers University, where he taught classes in
sculpture, drawing and Third World artists until his
retirement from the school in 2002. In 1975 he was awarded a
A 30-year retrospective of his sculpture
was held in 1993 at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase,
New York. Several of his works are in the permanent
collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
City, the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, the Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, and the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art.
His awards include a Fulbright Fellowship
to Zimbabwe, and through grants from the National Endowment
for the Arts. His research into Third World visual culture
has taken him to Morocco, Brazil, China, Cuba, and Nigeria.
Inspiration for Edwards comes from his ancestral home,
Africa, where he currently spends several months each year
working as a sculptor in Senegal. He is a resident of New
York City, and is represented by Alexander Gray Associates,
a contemporary art gallery located in New York City.
The Principal. 1986