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Minimalism offers the first straightforward and useful summary of the output
and outlook of the artists associated with minimalism in its heyday, as well as
its subsequent development into more nuanced visual forms and its relationship
to postmodernism. Editor James Meyer is a specialist who has written
extensively on Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt, four of the
seminal minimalists (the fifth is Robert Morris). Despite the intellectual
thorniness of this art, Meyer avoids the turgidity that marks much of the
writing associated with it.
Tracing the origins of minimalism primarily to Frank Stella's "Black
Paintings" of 1959, Meyer outlines the shifting, often warring definitions of
this new kind of art. Once sculptors Andre and Judd had made their mark, there
was doubt that painters could be minimalists. Brice Marden and Robert Ryman
made the cut because their work was believed to be purely about the process of
painting. Interestingly, although this was overwhelmingly a male club, curators
also initially embraced the work of several women artists (including Agnes
Martin and Anne Truitt) who retained such minimalist no-noes as irregular,
handmade marks, color that could be perceived independently of form, and a
belief in transcendent meaning.