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Exploring Minimalism

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Minimalism can be defined as “made with an extreme economy of means and reduced to the essentials of geometric abstraction.” – Guggenheim.

Minimalism in Art

In the 1960s, minimalism as an art movement emerged in America. Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt produced works of art that defined this movement. Below are some great examples of minimalism highlighting:

  • The use of geometric shapes,
  • Limited color palettes,
  • Use of industrial materials (non-standard materials)
  • Removal of overt symbolism and emotional content (in both sculptures and paintings).

Figure 1: 1. Monumento Combatentes Ultramar, Lisbon; 2. Donald Judd, Unknown; 3. Frank Stella, Charlotte Tokayer; 4. Frank Stella, Double Concentric: Scramble; 5. Ellsworth Kelly, Red Green; 6. Ellsworth Kelly,Yellow Relief with Black ; 7. Frank Stella, Raqqa two 8. Gerhard Richter, 256 Farben; 9. Donald Sultan, Black Button

There are similarities between Minimalism and the European Bauhaus movement of the 1920s to 1930s. You are likely familiar with the works of Josef Albers, an exemplar of this period. When exploring minimalism and its use in quilting on your own, both movements offer great examples of limited color, bold color use and geometric abstraction.

Minimalism in Architecture

What about some of the architecture around us? Many of the more modern buildings highlight the qualities of minimalism, with its simplicity and geometric nature. Again, paring-down to the essentials, removing the ornate objects, use of limited materials, and bringing in the aspects of the surrounding environment.

Three architectural examples that inspire me:

  • The bridge on Neuse River is made of only two materials, iron and wood. However, what I love about this bridge is the triangular forms that run the sides and top of the bridge.
  • The North Carolina Museum of Arts (NCMA) West building is a very simple building and designed to let a lot of light in with both its glass walls and skylights. It’s surrounded by three gardens of water, which reflect the building, making it merge into its environment around it.
  • Minimal and without glass, the staircase window at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) depicts use of minimal architecture. Such a great architectural addition but also functional as it lets natural light into the stairwell. It also allows those climbing the stairs to grab a glimpse of the bridge and other architectural features in the main hall of the museum.

Figure 2: 1. Bridge over Neuse River; 2. NCMA West Building; 3. SFMOMA

Zaha Hadid, Frank Lloyd Wright and Bjarke Ingels are fascinating architects that design with a modern and minimalistic style. Their unique use of lines and geometry draws me in to their designs.

Minimalism in Quilting – My explorations

How do you apply these principles to quilting? How do you strip down your inspiration or design to the core fundamental shapes and colors? How much do you add? How much do you take out? Have you chosen the right color for the shape? Does the overall composition work?

Minimalism is very much an editing process when designing quilts, which can continue through the making process as well. Minimalism is one of my favorite expressions in quilting. Here are some examples of my explorations into minimalism:

  1. Negative Crosswalks: Inverting the colors of a pedestrian crossing.
  2. Altitudinal Ecosystem: Designed based on the mountain from Crater Lake
  3. Moorish Pyramids: Exploring the possibilities of using prints with minimalism by restricting palette and geometric shapes.
  4. Trapped: Expression of stress and feeling trapped in a box.
  5. Trees: Inspired by a tree-lined street.
  6. Fractions: Minimalism and use within modern traditional block
  7. Window (II): View from a window, minimal color palette
  8. New York High Line: Reducing a building to the core lines and colors.

A great source of minimal quilts are the previous winners of QuiltCon 2015, QuiltCon 2016, and QuiltCon 2017, and I also like the works of Jacquie Gering, Season Evans, Lindsay Stead, Nicole Neblett, and Leanne Chahley.

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