Brand Minimalism

Art in America Magazine has this look back at an exhibition from 1980 that examined the striking similarities between minimalist art and corporate identity design. Titled “Objects and Logotypes: Relationships Between Minimalist Art and Corporate Design” and curated by Buzz Spector, the show juxtaposed identities for companies like the Aluminum Company of America, Chase Manhattan Bank and International Minerals & Chemical Corporation with minimalist works from artists like Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre.

Brand Minimalism

Spector did not intend to present these juxatpositions as a critique of either corporate design or minimalist art.

The nuanced relationship he posited between Minimal artists and the surrounding corporate culture was founded neither on gestures of ironic appropriation nor on an explicitly antagonistic position. Instead, the visual and material imprints of corporations were, in Spector’s view, inescapable conditions of aesthetic discourse in mid-20th century America. Having been exposed to the ‘ubiquitous presence… of the CBS ‘eye,’ IBM’s girder-like initials [and] the pristine mechanics of Alcoa’s ‘A,’’ Spector wrote, Minimal artists ‘assimilated the hard-core message of the successful logotype.

Nevertheless, the reaction from some members of the minimalist art community were pretty negative. Spector recounts:

I sent copies of my essay to Andre, Judd, LeWitt and [Robert] Morris. Only Morris responded, and with great hostility. He told Susanne Ghez that he would not permit the loan of his work to the project. Neither would he permit reproduction of his work. It was no coincidence, a short time later, that Castelli Gallery, which represented Morris at the time, suggested to Susanne that this project was such a bad idea that if she went ahead with it the gallery would not lend work to future Renaissance Society shows.

It’s fascinating and a little funny to think that an artist of Robert Morris’s stature would find such a comparison to graphic design so threatening that he would react with such enmity. Read the full article here.


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