cover image Minimalism: Art of Circumstance

Minimalism: Art of Circumstance

Kenneth Baker. Abbeville Press, $45 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-89659-887-4

According to Baker, minimalist art is much more than a supercool pose: it is a spasm of revolt, and in its urge to clarify esthetic experience, it is rooted, he claims, in American pragmatism, with distant links to Shaker folk art and utopian social experiments like the Oneida and Brook Farm communities. Yet he notes that the ``patent silence'' of minimalist sculpture may be its chief value in a culture overwhelmed by trivial distractions. This readable, perceptive survey by the San Francisco Chronicle 's art critic takes a refreshingly undogmatic approach, amplified with 40 color and 80 black-and-white plates. In assessing Dan Flavin's emotionally charged fluorescents, Richard Serra's ``prop pieces'' on the verge of collapse, Bruce Nauman's deadpan satires, Sol LeWitt's intricate lattices suggestive of crystals or city plans, and works by Eva Hesse, Carl Andre, Frank Stella, Joel Shapiro et al., Baker broadens our awareness of the many unpredictable forms the minimalist impulse can take. (Mar.)