Dora Budor, Temps Mort, 2018. Rigid foam, acrylic polymer with pigment suspension, wood, hardware, foam coat, glaze, 12 x 7 x 5 ft., courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York, photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich.

This ’90s Exhibition About Feminism and Abstraction Started It All

GARAGE takes a closer look at More Than Minimal, an unsung exhibition of female and post-minimalist artists from over two decades ago, and finds that it paved the way for artists today.

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Sep 4 2018, 1:53pm

Dora Budor, Temps Mort, 2018. Rigid foam, acrylic polymer with pigment suspension, wood, hardware, foam coat, glaze, 12 x 7 x 5 ft., courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York, photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich.

In the introduction to her 1996 exhibition More Than Minimal: Feminism and Abstraction in the ’70s, at the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts, curator Susan L. Stoops noted that minimalism and feminism in art must be considered “as historical experiences rather than stylistic categories.” I would add that so, too, should abstraction—it is a history that has expanded into the imperatives of daily life, as much as it is a regimen for images made by artists. Or, it is as Eva Hesse said of her own work in a last interview before she died in 1970, paraphrasing legendary curator and New Museum founder Marcia Tucker: “Chaos structured as non-chaos.”

We should know by now that purity—often ascribed to the art of male contemporaries of Hesse, Lynda Benglis, Jackie Winsor, and Ree Morton, to name a few from Stoops’ show featured in this portfolio—is just a projection of value, or a speculation on it. The impurity of post-minimalism, its step towards extra, gets reincarnated into a contemporary art that roots around the job sites of industrial overproduction and goes home to get soaked in commercial aesthetics after reading up on its art history. Artists such as Amy Yao, Dora Budor, Kelly Akashi, Andrea Crespo, and Jennie C. Jones are each paired here with an artist from More Than Minimal to daydream a through line that may indeed hold.

Landscapes morph into video and subjects become objects that must circulate. The exterior world goes inside for a break and gets cooped up in a sea of information, basking in the glow of transmission. Boundaries have been well blurred, references disordered, and the candle is melting onto the brick now. Pluralism gets hyperactive while images become manifold, multiple, like a fun-house distortion; but while the mutation is real, the fun is debatable. The sky is above and also below. Drugs get redundant. Location is just a pin that can be dropped anywhere now, and even as emotions become scalable and reproducible, that still doesn’t mean they’re fake.

On her 2015 album Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey quoted T. S. Eliot: “What might have been is an abstraction, remaining a perpetual possibility, only in a world of speculation.” But the 1930s were a long time ago, Eliot, and abstraction is not only what might have been, it is also the defining quality of now and what is likely to be. In precarity, we can only gesture and speculate. The present is not a kosher climate, and it may be all too much, but it’s thoroughly possible.

Left: Eva Hesse, untitled, 1968. Glass and metal case, 6 objects, mixed media, 14 1/2 x 10 x 10 5/8 in., photo: Abby Robinson, courtesy of the Estate and Hauser & Wirth, © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Right: Amy Yao, Maxi No. 1, 2016. Altered central vacuum inlet, activated charcoal, epoxy resin, PVC rice, freshwater pearls, and plastic pearls, 4 1/2 x 3 in., courtesy of Various Small Fires and the artist.
Left: Ana Mendieta, Butterfly, 1975. Super 8mm film transferred to high-definition digital media, color, silent, 3 minutes 19 seconds, edition of 6 + 3 APs, courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co., © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC. Right: Donna Huanca, Surrogate Painteen (performance view), 2016. Courtesy of Peres Projects, Berlin.
Left: Laida Lertxundi, 025 Sunset Red, 2016. 16mm, color, sound, 14 minutes, courtesy of the artist. Right: Michelle Stuart, Rio Grande Strata, 1974-1975. Earth from Rio Grande Basin, New Mexico, muslin-mounted rag paper, 7 3⁄4 x 10 x 1⁄2 in., courtesy of the artist.
Left: Dorothea Rockburne, Untitled from Locus, 1972. One from a series of six relief etching and aquatints on folded paper, 39 3/4 x 30 1/16 in., publisher: Parasol Press Ltd., New York, printer: Crown Point Press, San Francisco, edition: 42, given in memory of Beth Lisa Feldman, The Museum of Modern Art, © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY, © 2018 Dorothea Rockburne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Right: Jennie C. Jones, Hush, Clipped, 2017. Acoustic absorber panel and acrylic paint on canvas, 48 x 48 in., courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, © Jennie C. Jones.
Left: Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. Starification Object Series (Back), 1974–1975. Black and white photograph, courtesy of the Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles, © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon, and Andrew Scharlatt/Licensed by VAGA, NY. Right: Olga Balema, Gut feeling III, 2015. Stone, modeling clay, motors, and electronics, dimensions variable, courtesy of Croy Nielsen, Vienna.
Left: Samara Golden, The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes (installation view), 2017. 14 x 33 1/12 ft., 2017 Whitney Biennial, the Whitney Museum of American Art, photo by and courtesy of the artist. Right: Jackie Ferrara, Stone Court (installation view), 1988. Limestone, 8 x 65 x 24 ft., General Mills Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, courtesy of the artist.
Left: Dora Budor, Temps Mort (detail), 2018. Rigid foam, acrylic polymer with pigment suspension, wood, hardware, foam coat, glaze, 12 x 7 x 5 ft., courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York, photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich. Right: Lynda Benglis, Quartered Meteor, 1969/1975. Lead, 57 1/2 x 65 1/2 x 64 1/4 in., courtesy Cheim & Read, New York, © Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, NY.
Left: Kelly Akashi, ways of being (arched, extended), 2016. Brick, lead, wax, and wick, 26 x 6 x 38 in., photo: Marten Elder, courtesy of the artist and Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles. Right: Jackie Winsor, Brick Square, 1971. 300 stacked bricks, 15 x 50 x 50 in., photo: Steven Probert, courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, © Jackie Winsor.
Left: Mary Miss, Window in the Hill, (installation view), 1968. Wood and sheet plastic, 30 x 8 ft., Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Baltimore, Maryland, courtesy of the artist. Right: Josephine Halvorson, Night Window, August 7–8, 2015, 2015. Oil on linen, 31 x 22 in., courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, © Josephine Halvorson.
Left: Ree Morton, Regarding Landscape (installation view), 1976. Artpark, Lewiston, New York, courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York, © Estate of Ree Morton. Right: Andrea Crespo, Misrecognition (present), 2017. Unique digital print on polyester satin, aluminum, 50 × 44 × 2 1/4 in., courtesy of Downs & Ross, New York.
Left: Nancy Graves, II-09-94, 1994. Cast glass and patinated bronze, 18 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 13 in., courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, ©Nancy Graves Foundation, Inc., licensed by VAGA, NY. Right: Daiga Grantina, Crashino, 2014. One armed bandit wheels, PVC, string, acryl, fake carnations, taillight, and Plexiglas, 16 x 16 x 16 in., courtesy of Galerie Joseph Tang.

A version of this story appears in GARAGE Issue 15, publishing September 2018. Reproduction, including downloading of works, is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.