Critics’ Picks

  • Frederik De Wilde, Horizontal Depth - This is Not the Place We Go to Die. It's Where We are Born, 2018, stainless steel, carbon nanotubes, polymer, LEDs and electronics, 75" (diameter).

    “Minimalism: Space. Light. Object.”

    National Gallery Singapore
    1 St. Andrew's Rd
    November 16–April 14

    ArtScience Museum
    6 Bayfront Ave
    November 16–April 14

    This massive exhibition, held in both the National Art Gallery and the ArtScience Museum, is about the canon of Minimalism—who is in it and, by extension, who is indebted to it. By beginning with black paintings by Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, and Tadaaki Kuwayama, the curators immediately emphasize Minimalism’s turn away from the expressive toward a restrained aesthetic and a privileging of the phenomenological. Unfolding through a chain of ideas that stretch from room to room, the exhibition connects these Minimalist monochromes to the work of Asian artists such as Roberto Chabet, whose Kite Traps, 1973 (remade 2015), comprise strips of black rubber stretched across wooden frames that were originally shown in a 1973 exhibition whose dedicatee was Eva Hesse; to contemporary artworks such as Frederik De Wilde’s Horizontal Depth - This is Not the Place We Go to Die It’s Where We are Born, 2018, which is installed at the ArtScience museum and evokes a black hole in its use of the blackest black, a color De Wilde developed to capture light of all frequencies.

    In its historical logic of resonances and influences, the exhibition delineates an art history of Minimalism through the influence of Asian art and philosophy such as Zen Buddhism and the specific idea of the void or emptiness. Cultural appropriation, seemingly implied, defines these relationships. The curatorial team has strategically installed, at transitional spaces between rooms, sonic works such as Midori Takada’s Catastrophe Σ, 1983, and Steve Reich’s Drumming, 1970–71, whose repetitive phrasing is contextualized around traditional African drumming. Throughout the show, selections argue that however introspective the Minimalist aesthetic is purported to be, it was based on a cultural debt, on looking at the world at large. An exhibition of entangled global histories, this show reminds us that the canon, while a seemingly monolithic talisman, is always ripe for remaking.