When I learned that Minimalism, Postminimalism and Conceptualism in the 60’ 70’ exhibition was soon inaugurated at Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, I immediately thought it would be ideal to visit with my daughter and her 4-year-old roommates.
The exhibition gathers the group of American artists who founded these movements with their early works. Bruce Nauman with his neon work and videos, Fred Sandback with his subtle pieces with thread that delimit the space, Sol Lewitt with his conceptual proposals in his Wall drawings, objects and designs and Dan Flavin with his pieces of fluorescent tubes.
Vertical, horizontal and oblique lines, geometric shapes, colors, abstract art, volume and three dimensions. A perfect occasion for children to see and feel with their bodies the artistic concepts that had been working in the school guided by Silvina, the teacher.
With courage, we cross the city towards La Boca in rush hour on a school bus with 24 children full of curiosity. We arrived at the intersection of Caminito and the Riachuelo a few minutes late, that day there were traffics cuts in different areas of the capital federal.
We entered to Proa where Paula was waiting for us and, quickly, we plunged into the gloom of the first room. In front of Bruce Nauman‘s neon piece, the children were surprised when the educator told them that with these light scribbles the artist wrote his name.
These artists wanted to revolutionize the art world, “turn it upside down”, create objects that were neither paintings nor sculptures with an economy of resources and in which the most important was the idea or concept.
In his innovative inexpressive videos Nauman involves his body doing a repetitive action: in this case, he walks on a square shape marked on the ground with exaggerated steps. The kids had a lot of fun imitating him and involving their own bodies.
A great feat was to go through the next room preventing the children from touching the acrylic threads with which Fred Sandback takes the dematerialization of art to its limits. He draws in the space. With this art installation that interacts with the environment (architecture and light) Sandback confirms that the label “minimalist art” is reductive and simplistic. Theorists of the time tried to inlcude in this category manifestations so diverse that they were not recognizable by their material properties (although the industrial character used to be a common denominator) but rather by the reactions they caused in the spectators and by the presence that imposed in the galleries.
In Sol Lewitt‘s work analogies arise between minimalism and conceptualism, evidencing the overlap between art history categories that are not watertight. Although their “structures” had a lot in common with the “specific minimalist objects”, the instructions to build their works as a recipe make it clear that the decisions that the artist makes beforehand is crucial. The execution of the work it is a purely mechanical aspect. In this way, Sol Lewitt is consolidated as the progenitor of conceptual art. Sitting in a circle next to the great blue and white wall painting, children played to identify the geometric shapes and to “be artists” realising the directives that Paula transmitted to them: “Close your eyes and write your name”, “Draw your favorite food while you say it out loud, ”among others.
The room with Dan Flavin‘s neon tubes is the most fascinating for everybody. Some kids said enter: “it seems that we are in a theater”, not in vain he called his first works of 1961 with light bulbs “icons” for the potential of light to generate a ritualized contemplation. This great artist exploits to the maximum the quality of fluorescent light and what can be done plastically with it. He plays with the variations of tones and scale. Dan Flavin immerses us in “other” reality creating spaces of color, environments where color is the main protagonist and invades our senses. More than a work of art it is a “phenomenological experience”. With its fluorescent tubes it floods and distorts the spaces and bodies that transit it.
We missed “Windlass”, the work that Dan Graham installed on the forecourt of Fundación Proa a few days after our visit. This circular structure with bidirectional mirrors, specially designed for this site, poses a set of reflections between the surrounding space, sunlight and the bodies that cross the labyrinth. Another challenge for the viewer involve the body and live a playful experience in the public space.
We thank Proa’s education team and congratulate them for their dedicated work.
A tip for family visits: The didactic suitcase that is available in the exhibition is a great tool for kids to have an interesting and fun autoguided experience!