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Tom Williams

[Neo-geometric; Neo-minimalism]

Term typically applied to a diverse group of artists that emerged in New York during the mid-1980s, including Ashley Bickerton, Ross Bleckner, Peter Halley, Jeff Koons, Allan McCollum, Haim Steinbach, Philip Taaffe and Meyer Vaisman. Although the artists associated with this term differ greatly from one another, it is frequently used in relation to two tendencies: on one hand, to artists that simulated modernist geometric abstraction and, on the other, to a group of appropriation artists who borrowed imagery from contemporary consumer culture. The term has sometimes been characterized as a marketing ploy, but it has also appeared in many retrospective accounts of the period. It is sometimes described as shorthand for New Geometry or Neo-Geometric Conceptualism and is often used more or less interchangeably with commodity art, Neo-Conceptualism, New Abstraction and Simulationism.

“Neo-Geo” was first used in reference to a 1986 exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in SoHo that included Bickerton, Halley, Koons and Vaisman. These artists were particularly associated with the emerging East Village art scene at the time, and the exhibition was discussed as the beginning of a new movement that would displace Neo-Expressionism as the dominant trend in the New York art world. Many of the artists associated with Neo-Geo were discussed in terms of the then-fashionable ideas about Postmodernism and hyperreality, particularly in reference to the writings of Jean Baudrillard, and their art was often described as a challenge to modernist conceptions of artistic originality. A number of these artists engaged in appropriating existing images, practices and materials, but they frequently challenged the accepted significance of these elements or imbued them with new meaning. Artists like Halley and McCollum adopted the geometry of modernist abstraction, for example, but rejected its metaphysical associations and instead used it to address mass production or institutional power. Halley, in particular, described his Day-Glo abstractions as a response to the geometric unreality of the highways, the prisons and the circuit boards of the postindustrial world. Along similar lines, McCollum produced multiple plaster casts of monochrome paintings that he referred to as “surrogates,” and he then displayed them in groups to call attention to their unoriginality and their manufactured character. Artists such as Bickerton and Koons, on the other hand, were more preoccupied with the contemporary consumer culture than with the infrastructures of power. Bickerton’s ...


Doug Singsen

Term used to describe the work of artists who utilized the innovations of Minimalism, but who also critiqued many aspects of Minimalist theory and practice. The term was coined in 1971 by the art critic Robert Pincus-Witten to describe a major current in American art from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s that included artists associated with Process art, Conceptual art, earth art (see Land art), Body art, and Performance art. Because of Post-minimalism’s diversity, it is best understood as a period or tendency rather than a style or movement. Pincus-Witten compared Post-minimalism to Post-Impressionism in that both are used to describe widely differing styles that developed from a common root (Minimalism and Impressionism, respectively).

Minimalist innovations adopted by Post-minimalists include serial composition; the use of industrial materials and professional fabrication; a blurring of the boundary between painting and sculpture; and the use of the artwork to shape the viewer’s spatial environment. However, Post-minimalists criticized the autonomy, object-centeredness, aggressive spatial presence, exclusion of reference to the body, and implicit masculinity of Minimalist art. Consequently, Post-minimalists adopted a de-centered, flexible, open structure in their work; elevated the process of creation over its end result; employed techniques and materials that incorporated contingency and ephemerality; used the artist’s body and the natural and built environment as raw materials; and introduced signifiers of femininity into their work....


Doug Singsen

Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculpture was an exhibition held at the Jewish Museum in New York City from April 27 to June 12, 1966. Curated by Kynaston McShine, it was the second major Minimalist group exhibition after the Wadsworth Atheneum’s 1964 exhibition, Black White + Gray. Primary Structure’s opening attracted many celebrities and was the subject of a lavishly illustrated Life magazine article, while the exhibition’s title gave rise to the use of the term “primary structure” as a description of the reductive geometric sculpture prevalent in the mid-1960s.

The Minimalist artists featured in Primary Structures were Carl Andre, Larry Bell, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Judy Gerowitz (who later changed her name to Judy Chicago), Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, John McCracken, Robert Morris, and Anne Truitt. Although the Minimalists received the most attention from critics, they were actually a minority within the exhibition, which included a sizeable contingent of asymmetrical, biomorphic or otherwise irregular or non-reductive works....


Doug Singsen

(b New York, New York, 1941).

American sculptor. Shapiro received a BA in 1964 and an MA in 1969, both from New York University. From 1965 to 1967, Shapiro worked with the Peace Corps in India. While there, he saw many examples of Indian sculpture, which helped spur his decision to become an artist. In 1967, Shapiro married Amy Snider, an art educator, with whom he had a daughter, Ivy, in 1969; the couple separated in 1972. In the early 1970s, Shapiro befriended artists Elizabeth Murray and Jennifer Bartlett and gallery owner Paula Cooper, who gave Shapiro his first solo exhibition in 1970.

Shapiro’s work between 1968 and 1972 was strongly influenced by Process art, and Eva Hesse in particular, as seen in Shapiro’s Two Hands Forming (1971; artist’s col.), a circle of clay balls placed on the floor, which closely resembles Hesse’s Sequel (1967–8; Chicago, IL, A. Inst.). Other works made by Shapiro during this time included smeared and dripped paintings, nylon string sculptures and a number of metal sculptures influenced by Richard Serra....


Doug Singsen

(b Baltimore, MD, March 16, 1921; d Washington, DC, Dec 23, 2004).

American sculptor. Truitt was raised in the town of Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She received a BA in psychology from Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated cum laude in 1943. In 1947, she married James McConnell Truitt, a journalist, whose career caused the couple to relocate frequently in subsequent years.

Truitt’s artistic training began in 1945 with night classes in sculpture in Boston. She continued her studies at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Washington, DC, in 1949–50, where she studied with Alexander Giampietro (1912–2010) and befriended fellow student Kenneth Noland . In the early 1950s she also studied with Octavio Medellin (1907–99) at the Museum School in Dallas, with Peter Lipman-Wulf (1905–93) in New York City, and with Noland and Peter Blanc in Washington, DC. Throughout the 1950s, Truitt experimented with a wide variety of materials and styles in sculpture and drawing.

After living in San Francisco from ...


Michelle Yun

[ James, Christopher Mallory ]

(b Vineburg, CA, June 11, 1943; d New York, NY, Nov 17, 1987).

American sculptor. Born Christopher Mallory James, Wilmarth moved to New York in 1960 to attend the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He took a year off in 1962 after the suicide of his brother but returned, receiving a BA in 1965. There he met and later married fellow artist Susan Rabineau. Wilmarth worked briefly as a studio assistant for Tony Smith from 1967 to 1969. He was appointed an adjunct instructor of art at Cooper Union in 1969, where he taught until 1980.

Wilmarth’s Minimalist sculptures composed of glass and metal are meditations on light and space. A critical turning point occurred when he first introduced glass into his sculptures in 1967. These early constructions made from highly polished birch and sheets of tempered glass were inspired by his work as a cabinetmaker. The atmospheric translucence of glass achieved by etching the surface with hydrofluoric acid captivated the artist and by ...


Julia Robinson

(b Bern, ID, Oct 13, 1935).

American composer. Young was an exponent of experimental “drone” music and an originator of Minimalism (whose diverse practitioners include Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass). Educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (1957–8), he completed his graduate studies in composition at the University of California, Berkeley. An avid and talented jazz musician, Young performed with legendary figures Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In 1959, he attended Summer Courses at Darmstadt, the center of New Music, taking advanced composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen. There he discovered the work of John Cage and met Cage’s great interpreter David Tudor, who put Young in contact with Cage. Back in California, Young presented Cage’s work, adopting some of his radical strategies in his own music. A landmark Young composition of this period is Poem for Tables, Chairs, Benches, etc. (1960), a piece of indeterminate duration.

In 1960 Young moved to New York and galvanized a receptive circle of Cage-inspired artists and composers. Young’s most significant contribution to this milieu were his ...