Minimalism: When Less Is More

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By Jane Oh


     In the late 1950s and 60s, an art movement, known as minimalism, surfaced and left behind a long-lasting impact on architecture, visual arts, and lifestyles. During the minimalist movement, art became less of a detailed expression and instead, a simple form of work that had no significant or symbolic meaning, which eventually transferred to the modern lifestyle of minimalism we see today.

     During the 60s, there was a sudden proliferation in simple, geometric art that often took form in sculptures or paintings by artists such as Tony Smith, Anne Truitt, Donald Judd, or Sol LeWitt. These were the first, early minimalist artists that focused on creating art that would fill a space with simplicity, avoiding detailed work that one must deeply try to view and understand. At first, minimalism was not accepted well by art critics who found the artwork to lack talent and meaning, unlike the previous art trend: abstract expressionism, in which art was expressed with great emotion through rapid, sharp brushstrokes that required viewers to deeply interpret the symbolic significance.

     Although minimalism is different in many aspects from the art that dominated the market previously, abstract expressionism, minimalism quickly became favored by the public. People found comfort in simple art and by the late 60s, minimalism quickly spread throughout the world of architecture, fashion, interior home design, theatre, and music. The idea of simple living appealed to many people and the legacy of minimalism did not dissolve away.

     Since about 2006, minimalism popularity in the modern world increases as minimalists share their stories of decluttering and organizing, writers post blogs about simple living, and normal people change their lifestyles entirely in devotion to minimalism. But what is it all for? What value does minimalism hold in today’s society and why is the concept of “less” important and beneficial to individual lives?

     The society we live in today values a lot of the unnecessary and insignificant. Millions of people worship rich, problematic celebrities, pouring money into buying merchandise and products from them. People are constantly, mindlessly scrolling down phones, socializing through a screen instead of sitting down for real life chat at lunch. Shopping malls and stores are designed to lure customers into buying more products by the architectural structure. Social media platforms, such as Instagram, model after the brain’s addiction to situations such as pulling the lever of a lottery slot machine. The layout of an iPhone is bright with vibrant colors that capture one’s eyes, encouraging people to spend more time online and in social media instead of focusing on their own individual values of happiness, friendship, and fulfillment.

Because we live in a society where examples of what life should look like are advertised everywhere, it is easy to lose sight of what is real and important to an individual. Minimalism, the concept of less, allows one to reach their full potential and strengthens the willpower to recognize the ordinary things that do not have value or importance in life. By eliminating objects and habits that do not serve a purpose in life, it allows a person to discover their own personal values and needs.

In a world where “more” is encouraged to mold lives into a certain standard, the concept of “less” is needed to balance important, true values from pointless, wasteful objects in disguise as meaningful moments of life.