Opulent Minimalism

December 3, 2019 - January 31, 2020
Palm Desert, CA


This online exhibition pulls from across the five Heather James locations to feature minimalist works of rich and luxurious simplicity. Although not all strictly related to the Minimalist or Post-minimalist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, these works are united in their focus on form, color, or texture. The seemingly contradictory exhibition title informs an approach to these works in which the stark, and at times ascetic, appearance belies the lushness of materiality or profound complexity of meaning that supports the work. Only through the unfolding of time – time spent examining the works, time living with the work – does the sumptuousness of these artworks reveal themselves.

Central to the exhibition are the two sculptures by Anish Kapoor. “Untitled”, a stone sculpture, is deceptively simple. Kapoor harnesses not just common stone but rather alabaster, often associated with magnificence. He further emphasizes the materiality of the sculpture through carving which displays its translucency against its density in order to meditate on the concept of the void.

On the surface, “Blood Cinema” is a simple circle of acrylic and steel and yet, walking around the sculpture, one both sees and inhabits the deep red hue as the light passing through creates washes of color or distorting our view through it. A simple red disk transforms into a totem imbued with concepts, as so much of Kapoor works are, of color, light, space, and the void.

“Off White” by Tadaaki Kuwayama is one of the few works in the exhibition associated with the Minimalism of the 1960s. Kuwayama worked alongside other Minimalist artists including Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Frank Stella. Using commercially available household materials and color, Kuwayama’s work examines color within two-dimensional space. By using spray paint, he erases the hand of the artist and in mounting them in aluminum, continues Minimalism’s investigation into the means of production and art. Moreover, the aluminum mount is only a suggestion of installation and can be installed in any configuration. Kuwayama elevates strict geometric shape and pure color into quiet reflection and deep meditation of space and time.

Since the 1960s, Post-minimalist and even contemporary artists have re-examined Minimalism and focused on the tensions between social and art historical context. Richard Tuttle’s poetic sculpture, “Untitled (Cloth and Paint Work #2)” still has the power to shock – simple rope, cloth, and paint becomes a moment of lyrical meditation that interrupts how we move through and perceive the world. A small gesture of soft textile subverts the association of monumental and masculine metal and stone with sculpture or even artistic genius. Likewise, both “Convex, Concave” by Theaster Gates and “Big Grid/Solo Tear” by Sterling Ruby reconceives minimalism as a means to analyze social and cultural issues while also upending the fascination with mechanical production by earlier minimalists like Judd or even Kuwayama.

In all of the works in the exhibition, the artist either transforms or actively pursues austerity into works of intense splendid meaning. Opulence is not just material abundance but also emotional, philosophical, and poetic abundance. Other artists in the exhibition include Francis Celentano, Gene Davis, Tony de los Reyes, Ellsworth Kelly, Jannis Kounellis, Yayoi Kusama, Tadasky Kuwayama, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, Peter Young, and Norman Zammitt.