What's Universal? Part 2

Minimalism is universal. Abstract is universal. Geometric is universal. That's what an exhibit at The M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park makes clear, just as the play I saw in Berkeley conveyed the universality of certain emotional issues and ethical choices [see 11/13/16 post].

"Laura's Quilt" (2007), by Gyöngy Laky. The M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, California.

"Laura's Quilt" (2007), by Gyöngy Laky. The M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, California.

When I walked over to the entrance wall of "On the Grid," I was surprised to find not cording, but twigs held in place by nails. "Laura's Quilt" (2007) was created by Gyöngy Laky, an American artist born in Hungary.

Once I entered the gallery, I found an interesting and beautiful variety of textile works from around the world that share the same characteristics attributed to the 20th-century school of abstract art known as Minimalism. While the movement included such artists as Donald Judd, Sol Le Witt, Dan Flavin, and Agnes Martin, the pieces on exhibit were created by weavers and other artists/ARTisans, mostly from different cultures. However, they all use a gridded arrangement as a patterning device and/or repetition of simple geometric shapes. As the description of the exhibit states: These objects reflect the movement's core principle that there is a beauty in simplicity that is both universal and timeless.

Tibetan apron panel, 1900s. Wool; twill weave.

Tibetan apron panel, 1900s. Wool; twill weave.

Woman's tunic (phyang) of cotton and silk, ca. 1900. Burma, Asho Chin people.

Woman's tunic (phyang) of cotton and silk, ca. 1900. Burma, Asho Chin people.

Korean wrapping cloth (bojagi), piecework made of bast fiber.

Korean wrapping cloth (bojagi), piecework made of bast fiber.

Detail of Korean wrapping cloth (bojagi).

Detail of Korean wrapping cloth (bojagi).

Woman's skirt panel (pagne) from Gorea Island, Senegal.

Woman's skirt panel (pagne) from Gorea Island, Senegal.

Detail of woman's skirt panel (pagne) from Gorea Island, Senegal.

Detail of woman's skirt panel (pagne) from Gorea Island, Senegal.

Japanese Buddhist altar cloth (uchishiki), early 1800s. Silk, gold leaf on paper strips, twill lampas, supplementary-weft patterning.

Japanese Buddhist altar cloth (uchishiki), early 1800s. Silk, gold leaf on paper strips, twill lampas, supplementary-weft patterning.

Detail of Japanese Buddhist altar cloth, late Edo period.

Detail of Japanese Buddhist altar cloth, late Edo period.

Soto Zen Buddhist's priest robe (kesa), Japan, ca. 1603-1868, piecework of bast fiber (ramie or hemp) and appliqué.

Soto Zen Buddhist's priest robe (kesa), Japan, ca. 1603-1868, piecework of bast fiber (ramie or hemp) and appliqué.

Detail of Soto Zen Buddhist priest's robe.

Detail of Soto Zen Buddhist priest's robe.

Man's headdress (abe), late 1800s, Melanesia, Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz Islands. Paper mulberry barkcloth (lepau), painted by hand.

Man's headdress (abe), late 1800s, Melanesia, Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz Islands. Paper mulberry barkcloth (lepau), painted by hand.

Detail of man's headdress.

Detail of man's headdress.

Detail of man's headdress.

Detail of man's headdress.

Breast cloth (kamben cerek or wastra tirtanadi), 1900s, Indonesia, Bali. Cotton; plain weave, spaced warp, discontinuous weft.

Breast cloth (kamben cerek or wastra tirtanadi), 1900s, Indonesia, Bali. Cotton; plain weave, spaced warp, discontinuous weft.

Detail of Balinese breast cloth (kamben cerek or wastra tirtanadi).

Detail of Balinese breast cloth (kamben cerek or wastra tirtanadi).

Detail of Nigerian/Igbo door.

Detail of Nigerian/Igbo door.

Nigerian door, Igbo people, 1800s; iroko wood.

Nigerian door, Igbo people, 1800s; iroko wood.

Bark cloth (siapo), 1900s, Polynesia, Samoa. Paper mulberry barkcloth, block printed, painted.

Bark cloth (siapo), 1900s, Polynesia, Samoa. Paper mulberry barkcloth, block printed, painted.

Detail of Samoan bark cloth (siapo).

Detail of Samoan bark cloth (siapo).

One of the most compelling works, because of its transparent layers, is also the largest in the exhibit. American artist Rebecca R. Medel meditatively created "Wall of Windows" (1990) with cotton and linen, knotted netting, warp- and weft- resist dyeing (ikat). It has an ethereal quality as it moves between form and formlessness. She states in the title card, "My work is about the spiritual, about infinity, about other than this physical plane of existence." Although the process was complex, the resulting installation is the epitome of simplicity, of minimalism.

"Wall of Windows" (1990), by Rebecca R. Medel.

"Wall of Windows" (1990), by Rebecca R. Medel.

Side view of "Wall of Windows" (1990), by Rebecca Medel.

Side view of "Wall of Windows" (1990), by Rebecca Medel.

Side detail of "Wall of Windows" (1990), by Rebecca Medel.

Side detail of "Wall of Windows" (1990), by Rebecca Medel.

What does minimalism mean to you--in art you view or art you create?
What examples come to mind when you think of minimalism and simplicity?
If minimalism and the simplicity of geometric shapes appeal to you, can you describe why? If they don't, what isn't appealing about them?

*Note: To view the conversation that was started on the former Weebly site of this blog and add your comment, click here or to start a new conversation, click "Comment" below.