11 Female Artists Who Were Pioneering Minimalists 11 Female Artists Who Were Pioneering Minimalists

Keeping up with your weekly dose of art, today we are exploring women who were pioneering Minimalists, a movement undeniably dominated by men, like Donald Judd and Robert Morris, who formulated in writing many of the ideas behind what we now know as Minimalism. They called for simple, three-dimensional, geometric forms that were stripped of any illusionism, iconography, or personal expression and made using industrial processes and materials like plywood, aluminum and plastic. Let’s take a look at 11 women artists who have made pioneering contributions to the pared-down geometric abstractions of Minimalism over the past 50 years.



Corse was born in Berkeley, California and lived in Los Angeles after studying at UC Santa Barbara and the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts). She first gained attention in the mid-’60s with white, shaped-canvas monochromes and light box-like constructions made from Plexiglas and fluorescent lights. In 1968, she discovered glass microbeads, the tiny prismatic spheres often embedded in roads or street signs for nighttime reflectivity. She began to attach the beads to the painted surfaces of her canvases, satisfying her desire to create different sensory effects with light.


Raised in India, Mohamedi studied art at the prestigious St. Martin’s School of the Arts in London, where she was based for some 10 years. After moving to Paris, she returned to India to teach fine art at the university level. Mohamedi was intensely focused on abstract, monochrome line drawings rendered in combinations of ink, graphite, gouache and/or watercolor. At times, they bring to mind architectural sketches or abstract landscapes, but they are clearly non-representational, playing with perspective, depth and three-dimensionality.


One of the leading figures of the German art scene in the 1960s, Posenenske saw art as a tool of social transformation and institutional critique. She’s best known for her series “Square Tubes,” structures resembling parts of industrial air ducts. Posenenske insisted on working in unlimited series, subverting the notion that a work of art is a singular, static, and precious object. While museums like MoMA and the Tate acquired her works, she insisted on selling them at cost. Recognizing the limits of art’s ability to affect socio-political change, Posenenske stopped making art entirely in 1968 and became a sociologist.



Cuban artist Herrera showed in Paris in the 1940s before studying at the Art Students League in New York and permanently settling in Manhattan in 1954. She has been painting and sculpting crisp geometric abstractions ever since, often bringing a sense of physicality to her canvases. Her clean, flat forms in a limited palette of bright colors share much with the New York Minimalists.


Martin’s ghostly grids have placed her in the pantheon of Minimalist masters. In 1957 she moved to Coenties Slip, where she began incorporating nautical objects and motifs into her work. She also began developing her highly influential signature style: pale, square-format grids of repeating lines. Betty Parsons gave Martin her first solo show in 1958, and her work was included in the Guggenheim’s landmark “Systematic Painting” exhibition in 1966.


Escandell’s cool, geometric forms are not just abstractions: they’re politically charged. Coming of age as an artist in the mid-to-late 1960s in Argentina, during the notoriously oppressive and violent dictatorship of Juan Carlos Ongania, Escandell joined the radical, political collective known as the Grupo de Arte Vanguardia in Rosario, after graduating from university there. Escandell’s work —abstract geometric forms on paper or built from wood— was censored. She couldn’t publicly exhibit her art from 1968 to 1983, until Argentina became democratic again.


Baer studied psychology at the New School for Social Research before turning to artmaking full-time. Her precisely painted canvases from the ’60s remain her most recognizable, largely consisting of a central blank space framed by a band-like painted perimeter. Baer would often show them as duplicate diptychs, or hang them near the floor, emphasizing their physicality. Her works are considered minimalist not only for their emptiness, but also for the way they draw attention to spatial relationships.


One of the few devoted sculptors on this list, Truitt was one of only three women included in the landmark “Primary Structures” exhibition at the Jewish Museum in 1966. With little formal training, she began experimenting with clay, plaster, and steel after seeing Barnett Newman’s work and Ad Reinhardt’s all-black paintings at the Guggenheim in 1961. That experimentation would lead to her signature style: square-edged wood columns or panels painted with smooth acrylic, often applied in neat bands.


One of the few female sculptors of her generation to have created the kind of monumental steel, bronze, and stone works more often associated with men, Pepper has been making site-specific, freestanding abstract pieces around the world for more than five decades, including numerous public commissions.


British artist Leapman is one of the many painters who were influenced by Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s, but one of the few that have managed to strike a balance between that painterly movement and the kind of minimalism that arose in the 1960s and ’70s. Since the ‘60s she has been covering her canvases with horizontal markings that sometimes evoke woven textiles or paper, or even abstracted or blurred writing.


Despite the hard-edge abstraction of Obering’s meticulously painted squares and rectangles, the rich, layered pigments, egg tempera, gessoed panels, and gold leaf she uses are inspired by the Old Masters of Italy, where she has spent much time. That influence goes against the more austere tenets of Minimalism, but in the 1970s, Obering operated within a circle at the forefront of the movement.


© ARTICLE FROM Meredith Mendelsohn | artsy.net