Minimalists can still get the most of us

ART REVIEW: Minimalism/Postminimalism
by: , Mel Bochner’s screenprint “Range” plays with color, repetition, simplicity and math. Right?

The title is pretty maximalist: 'Minimalism/Postminimalism: Selections From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.'

The show, however, is spot on when it comes to explaining where minimalism, the baldheaded stepchild of abstract expressionism, came from and where it's going.

The first thing you see is the 'Variance Series' from 1967 by German artist Josef Albers, which relates to paintings he did in the 1940s.

The straight lines and carefully juxtaposed blocks of color show how the movement had its roots in the asceticism of the Bauhaus design group, but once you go around the corner you enter a room brimming with American energy.

There an untitled Donald Judd woodcut from 1961 has its analog in one of his boxy sculptures on the wall opposite.

The Portland Art Museum's assistant curator of prints and drawings, Marnie Stark, points out that Judd would sometimes put paint on sculpture and press it on to paper to make a print, such was the interest at the time in breaking down the barrier between two- and three-dimensional works.

Judd and Sol LeWitt led a movement in outsourcing fabrication of objects to craftsmen and industry. This is now common practice among conceptual art stars such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

'Conceptual art is entwined with minimalism,' says Annette Dixon, the museum's lead curator of prints and drawings.

Another reason these artists were making prints, as in the case of Frank Stella, was to record their works. They were often making the prints (with the help of a master printer) a decade or so after creating the paintings on which they are based.

Mel Bochner's work had much to do with visualizing mathematics, and here we see him playing with Pythagorean triangles, as well as integers floating in space. As in minimalist music, simplicity and repetition had a strange allure for artists, which the public still finds jarring.

Grids dominate the show - especially in the case of Agnes Martin - and some artists even worked on graph paper.

Robert Mangold was inspired by the colors of manila folders and steel desks, and here his semicircles and rectangles look like they'd work as the cover of a math textbook.

In the second half of the show you have to be patient enough to appreciate subtle shades of white.

There's an interesting three-dimensional print of white ink on folded white paper by Dorothea Rockburne, while Robert Ryman's 'Conversion' series printed on aluminum consists of three off-white squares pierced by black nails.

By the end it is exciting to see Richard Serra's clotted, black etching called 'Vesturey III,' which looks like a section of tar roof. It's kept behind Plexiglas because it looks tempting to touch. It's a reminder that this art still can access the emotions.

-Joseph Gallivan

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. FRIDAY, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. SATURDAY, noon to 5 p.m. SUNDAY, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, through May 6, Portland Art Museum, 1219 S.W. Park Ave., 503-226-2811, $10