Exhibitions

The Language of Less (Then)

Images

  • An irregular pale pink octagon is hung at various points on a white wall.
  • A light brown freestanding staircase on a wood floor.
  • A sculpture composed of rock fragments arranged in rows and organized by color on a white platform
Charlotte Posenenske, Series E Kleiner Drehflügel (Small Revolving Vane), 1967–68. Matte gray spray paint on sheet aluminum; overall dimensions variable. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2011.12. © 1967–68 Charlotte Posenenske
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Jo Baer, Untitled, 1967. Oil on canvas; overall: 34 ¼ x 96 in. (87 × 243.8 cm), framed: 34 3/8 × 48 1/8 and 34 ¼ x 48 1/16 in. (87.31 × 122.24 and 87 × 121.99 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of William J. Hokin, 1978.49.a–b. © 1967 Jo Baer
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Richard Serra, Prop, 1968. Lead antimony; 86 ¼ x 60 × 57 in. (219.1 × 152.4 × 148.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mrs. Robert B. Mayer, 1978.44.a–b. © 2011 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Tony Conrad, Yellow Movie 2/28/73, 1973. Emulsion with antique white undercoat, Provincial Colorglaze, Martin–Senour Paint No. 226 on studio white seamless paper; 124 × 107 in. (315 × 272 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2010.21
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
An irregular pale pink octagon is hung at various points on a white wall.
Richard Tuttle, Purple Octagonal, 1967. Dyed canvas; 54 13/16 × 55 ½ in. (139.2 × 141 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of William J. Hokin, 1982.69
Photo © MCA Chicago
A light brown freestanding staircase on a wood floor.
Jackie Ferrara, Stairway, 1973. Cotton batting with glue on cardboard; 32 × 37 × 70 in. (81.3 × 94 × 177.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.37. © 1973 Jackie Ferrara
Photo: Susan Einstein, courtesy of Lannan Foundation
Franz Erhard Walther, Netz (Net), 1963. Ochre net; 199 1/8 × 60 5/8 in. (507 × 154 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Fields by exchange, 2010.15. Courtesy of galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris
Photo: François Doury
A sculpture composed of rock fragments arranged in rows and organized by color on a white platform
Alan Sonfist, Earth Monument to Chicago, 1965–77. Natural earth drillings consisting of: 1) Sand, gravel and clay mixture; 2) Very stiff gray clay silt; 3) Fine sand with gray clay; 4) Gravel with gray clay; 5) Dense gray clay silt; 6) Hard pan; 7) Green shale; 8) Sandstone; and 9) Dolomite with pyrite (a form of limestone); installed: 2 ¼ x 72 × 96 in. (5.7 × 182.9 × 243.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert R. Molner, 1980.2. © 1965–77 Alan Sonfist
Photo © MCA Chicago

About

The Language of Less (Then and Now) is inspired by the MCA’s rich holdings of work from the 1960s and seventies that typically rejects imagery, reveals little if any evidence of the artist’s hand, and embraces industrial materials. In doing so, this work—known broadly as Minimal art—directs the viewer without distraction to the subtle underpinnings of all form: line, plane, mass, and color.

The exhibition is divided into two distinct parts, the first of which presents a fresh reinstallation of this historical material, with work by artists such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Serra. The second showcases a new generation of artists who have assimilated the lessons of their forebears but address a new range of concerns. These five contemporary artists—Leonor Antunes, Carol Bove, Jason Dodge, Gedi Sibony, and Oscar Tuazon—offer new insights into what is valuable and enduring in the historical work but also point us toward the pressing concerns of today.

With the history of art always under constant reappraisal by contemporary artists, this exhibition reintroduces now-classic material to the public alongside work by a younger generation of artists who are captivating international attention.

This exhibition is curated by MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling.

Installation Images

  • A gallery view with minimalist color field paintings on the walls, and a stairway-like sculpture in the middle of the room.
  • A gallery view featuring artist Jackie Ferrara's Stairway, a staircase-like sculpture made out of wood in the foreground, and additional color-field paintings in background.
  • Minimalist paintings and sculptures on display in a gallery
  • Installation view of four minimalist sculptures including a green rectangular plank and a worm-like form leaning against the wall, a square grey sheet held to the wall by a pipe, and on the ground, a square grid made of dark and light grey squares
  • Gallery view of minimalist sculptures and paintings
  • Minimalist paintings and sculptures on display in a gallery
  • Installation view of a cube-shaped sculpture on a white platform, two paintings, and a wall sculpture
  • Gallery view of three minimalist artworks on the walls and floor
  • Installation view of a cube-shaped sculpture on a white platform and two paintings
  • A gallery view with minimalist artworks on the walls and floor
  • Installation view of two paintings and a sculpture composed of rock fragments arranged in rows and organized by color on a white platform
A gallery view with minimalist color field paintings on the walls, and a stairway-like sculpture in the middle of the room.
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
A gallery view featuring artist Jackie Ferrara's Stairway, a staircase-like sculpture made out of wood in the foreground, and additional color-field paintings in background.
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Minimalist paintings and sculptures on display in a gallery
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view of four minimalist sculptures including a green rectangular plank and a worm-like form leaning against the wall, a square grey sheet held to the wall by a pipe, and on the ground, a square grid made of dark and light grey squares
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Gallery view of minimalist sculptures and paintings
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Minimalist paintings and sculptures on display in a gallery
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view of a cube-shaped sculpture on a white platform, two paintings, and a wall sculpture
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Gallery view of three minimalist artworks on the walls and floor
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view of a cube-shaped sculpture on a white platform and two paintings
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
A gallery view with minimalist artworks on the walls and floor
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view of two paintings and a sculpture composed of rock fragments arranged in rows and organized by color on a white platform
Installation view, The Language of Less (Then and Now), MCA Chicago, Oct 8, 2011–Mar 25, 2012
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Funding

Lead support for this exhibition is generously provided by Howard and Donna Stone. Major support is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional support is provided by the Neisser Family Fund, Jill and Peter Kraus, the Robert Lehman Foundation Inc., the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and Greene Naftali, New York.

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