Less is More

Less is More: Minimal + Post-Minimal Art in Australia is the next exhibition at the Heide Museum of Modern Art. It begins with Australian artists like Robert Jacks, (above, Red Cut Piece (45-90 degrees) 1969-2012) alongside works from Australian collections by Judd, Morris, Flavin et al., together with subsequent generations of Australian artists in the same vein.  Curated by Sue Cramer, the show will run from 3rd August to 4th November.

In one sense, the show echoes the provincialism debates of the early 1970s. Of the 40 artists in the show, the seven American artists are represented by works from Australian collections (Andre, Benglis, Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, Morris, and Nauman). Just when these particular works actually arrived in Australia would tell us something interesting about patterns of acquisition by state and private collections. However by the time they did arrive, the die was already cast. More important for the other artists in this show was the transmission of such ideas in mediated forms, and how persuasively the works of these artists exercised their rhetorical power in the pages of the art journals of the day, in the receptive environment of the post-formalist and anti-modernist Australian artworld. As someone said at the time, minimalism reproduces well…

Three of the best informed Australians of the first generation (Burn, Ramsden, and Jacks) produced their works in the show while they were overseas, yet only Ramsden and Burn had any significant impact back in Australia, when they (controversially) exhibited minimalist and conceptual works in The Field exhibition of 1968. Of the remaining thirty artists in Less is More, half were born before 1950, the oldest in 1936, the youngest in 1972. Thirteen of them (including your iconophile) are graduates of The Field.

And so, with the benefit of hindsight, and in another sense altogether, Less is More promises to be a provocative study of inter-generational continuity and change. The question will be how far these artists pushed the boundaries of what they saw…

P.S. Now that I’ve read Sue Cramer’s excellent catalogue essay, I find that in addition to Ramsden, Burn and Jacks, one should note that three other artists in the exhibition (Robert Hunter, Richard Dunn, and Wendy Paramour) also spent significant time in the U.S. and the U.K. in the late sixties.

P.P.S. And you can trace the details of the circumstances and dates of the collection and exhibition of the American works in the catalogue essay as well.

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