Though the movement itself was born in the 1960s, the word was first used by David Burliuk in conjunction with a 1929 exhibition of John Graham’s paintings at the Dudensing Gallery in New York. As Burliuk wrote, “Minimalism derives its name from the minimum of operating means. Minimalist painting is purely realistic—the subject being the painting itself.” Minimal art of the ’60s, objective and non-referential, was a response to the emotionally charged bent of abstract expressionism, in which artists expressed personal feeling through their work.
The six sculptors exhibiting works in “Minimally Speaking” are responding, in turn, to both minimalism and abstract expressionism. Though their respective sculptures, spare and modern, show the influence of a minimalist aesthetic, they also reveal personal inspirations and interests. There’s a psychological bent to Stephanie Blake’s elegant metal and porcelain sculptures, such as in Instantaneous (2015) and Candela (2014). Peter Millett openly engages with human feeling and memory in his folk art-inspired pieces—indeed, he doesn’t consider his work minimalist at all, despite the modern and pared-down appearances of pieces like Hipster (2014).
Denise Yaghmourian’s sculptures, on the other hand, made with wood, paper pulp, vinyl, thread, and found objects, make clear reference to both minimalism and postminimalism; the work is about the material. For John Luebtow, too, material and process are fundamental to the work. His innovations in glass-making techniques are on striking display in Linear Form Series-LF-13-07 (2013). Rounding out the group show are Matt Magee and Mark Pomilio, both of whom take inspiration from scientific advancements that shape the modern world. Viewed together, these works can’t be categorized by a single term, but they revolve around a theme, communicating, as the show’s title notes, through minimal form.