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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

The Beauty of Minimalism

Despite being a highly debated artistic movement, Minimalism will continue to be relevant for a long time.
The Barcelona Pavilion is a perfect example of minimalist architecture, exhibiting many of the characteristics that make minimalist buildings appear sleek and refined. (Photo Credit: Ashley Pomeroy at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

What is Minimalism?

Among the many styles that emerged in the late 1960s, minimalism was an art style known best for its simplicity and lack of artistic flourishes. Like many styles, minimalism manifests itself in paintings, architecture, and other artistic mediums. Artists that engage with this style aim to strip their creations of any complication, and instead emphasize easy geometric shapes and clean undisturbed lines, favoring a limited color palette. 

Minimalist art focuses solely on the visual aspect. This provides an emphasis on the viewer’s direct opinion and interpretation of the artwork. Artists that often flock towards minimalism aim to create objective pieces that are easy to take in, allowing the viewer to engage with the piece without the distractions of symbolism and storylines. This emphasis on simplicity helps reduce art to its most basic components which distinguishes minimalism from most other complex and decorative artistic styles.

Minimalism in Paintings and Sculptures

Minimalist paintings are typically what you think of when you imagine a stereotypical modern art painting. To most, it seems quite bland and meaningless, just a jumble of shapes with either muted colors or overly saturated ones. It’s the kind of painting that makes you think, “hey, I could do that.” Minimalism almost looks like abstract art with the absence of meaning or intention. With abstract art there is often a narrative being portrayed or a feeling being invoked. However, with minimalism, whatever you see on the canvas is all that there is to it. So while minimalism does look like abstract art at times, there is a clear lack of deeper meaning and complexity. 

Then there’s minimalist sculptures. These works are often very cubic, composed of many geometric shapes contorted and stacked on top or against each other. They usually are monochromatic with some occasional pops of color. Despite the lack of details, they still take up a decent amount of space. These sculptures have similar elements to the paintings in that they both utilize simplicity in the colors and shapes chosen.

Although most people long for reasons behind things like art, some enjoy the ability to make their own interpretations in the artwork while others enjoy the sense of cleanliness and calmness they get from the piece. Some people can look at a highly detailed piece and be amazed while others can look at the same piece and find it too packed. This has caused minimalism to become quite popular in recent years with famous minimalism artists including Frank Stella and Donald Judd, among others. 

Frank Stella is a famous minimalist artist from the late 1950s. He is best known for his use of squares, circles, and semicircles. Stella’s paintings show layers of these shapes, squares inside of larger squares inside even larger squares. He also incorporates a variety of muted and saturated colors in his paintings, making his work simple yet eye catching.

However, his work goes beyond paintings, creating sculptures that mesh geometric shapes together at various angles, as well. Stella’s work often includes netted rectangular prisms or cylinders and other shapes curved in different directions. His most recognizable sculptures, which he calls Puffed Stars, resemble large stars, ranging in sizes, colors, and material.

Donald Judd is another famous minimalist artist most known for the rectangles that he stacks on top of each other in his sculptures. These rectangles are usually placed together to resemble and to be used as furniture, such as shelves and chairs. Some of them are very colorful but most stay a natural wooden hue. At times, some of his pieces might seem like single rectangular blocks but with minimalism, that’s the whole point. The simplicity and sense of cleanliness is what’s appealing to many people.

Minimalism might be perceived as less time-consuming and effortless, but that is a myth.  It takes a lot of work to make something that appears to be so simple, appealing. These artists also have to put in a lot of energy and work in order to create their own style and make their work easily recognizable.

Minimalism in Architecture 

Most people find a strong distaste for postmodern buildings and feel reminiscent of the architecture of the past. Many people prefer the details in gothic cathedrals and medieval castles. However, to some the painted ceilings and sculptured columns can be a bit too much.

When it comes to minimalism and architecture, people usually envision a building with a very modern and sleek house design, featuring black and white walls inside and out with big windows that appears to be in the middle of nowhere. If you make a quick Google search on minimalist architecture, what I’ve described above appears to be everywhere. Minimalist architecture, like the art style, is incredibly cubic and plain. Often seeming like you had taken a bunch of monochromatic rectangles and pushed them together at random places.

Minimalist architecture is exemplified by the Barcelona Pavilion, built in 1928-1929 and designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. This structure features standard components, such as flat roofs, windows for walls, and a large but shallow body of water. The Barcelona Pavilion is able to look luxurious, spacious, and simple simultaneously, a signature trademark for stereotypical minimalist buildings. 

Another example of minimalist architecture is the Chichu Art Museum, located in Naoshima, Japan. From afar, the Chichu Art Museum seems hidden, located in a densely packed forest next to the ocean. A bird’s eye view would yield several rectangles, a triangle, and a couple of squares outlined with stone; the rest of the roof is covered with grass, bushes, and even some trees. It almost gives the vibe of a ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant, as though the museum does not belong. It mixes modern minimalist architecture with its natural green surroundings. Inside of the museum, apart from the various artworks you’ll find – some of them even minimalist themselves, such as the singular large sphere resting in the middle of a staircase known as the Walter De Maria –  large rooms open up to the sky. These rooms usually do not contain furniture, sometimes a floor filled with rocks, a tiled floor, or even just a smooth stone floor, with blank smooth walls.

Minimalist buildings typically have simple geometric shapes and textures in their designs, appear to be empty, and can feel cold. Although this style can come off as boring, it’s all done on purpose and is aesthetically pleasing to many people.

Opinions of Minimalism and Minimalism in Our Everyday Lives

Minimalism art is seen by some as uncreative, as seeming effortless and less time-consuming compared to other pieces of art. However, that’s completely false. It takes a lot of work to make something that appears to be so simple, appealing. These artists also have to put in a lot of energy and work in order to create their own style and make their work easily recognizable.

To many, the lack of details and meaning is appealing. Olivia Hsin ’26 said, “I love how you don’t see anything with minimalism; it makes my mind feel clean.”

Though there are some people who appreciate the simplicity of minimalism, there are many people who frown upon it and think that it has caused art to take a turn for the worse. 

“Personally, I think minimalism is a beautiful style that is overused,” said Ngozi Ihesiaba ’26. “However the minimalism trend has phased out with beautiful and more intimate styles, especially when it comes to living spaces. I was appalled when I saw a girl replace the wonderful living space her boyfriend had with a minimalist shell of its former look. I think centering minimalism is eliminating the hominess and the ability to feel true comfort in your own home.” 

Beyond the canvas and the blueprints, minimalism has already made a lasting impact on the way we view things and the way we live. No matter how hard we try, there is no escaping this movement of sorts and it is bound to forever impact us. 

It is important to note that minimalism is also a lifestyle. It might be surprising that so many people tend towards minimalism as a simpler way of life considering how popular consumerism has grown, but there is actually a community of individuals who believe in getting rid of unnecessary things and being able to enjoy life with just the essentials. 

“Minimalism is a really interesting idea that seems to be directly in juxtaposition to our modern ideas, where often it seems like more is more,” said Jack Lau ’26. “Yet, the rise of minimalism and enjoyers of less seem to also be rising, maybe signaling the need for simpler and less complicated lives.” 

These two varying views on the same subject truly helps show how interesting it is to interpret art. A piece hated by one person could be another person’s passion. Art is completely subjective and depends completely on the viewer’s interests and interpretations. Minimalism is a perfect way to explore different views on the same thing as there are tons of strong opinions on the topic, both negative and positive ones.

Among the many styles that emerged in the late 1960s, minimalism was an art style known best for its simplicity and lack of artistic flourishes.

About the Contributor
Jiangzhuo Wu, Staff Reporter
Jiangzhuo Wu is a Staff Reporter for ‘The Science Survey.’ Jiangzhuo enjoys journalistic writing as a way to share things that they find interesting and exciting. They love the way that photography can capture moments so naturally and at times can make you feel like you’re really there and reliving that moment of your life. Aside from journalism, Jiangzhuo enjoys listening to music, reading and watching movies and T.V. shows. Jiangzhuo plans on studying the field of law in college and plans on becoming a lawyer in the future.