In the increasingly theoretical New York art world of the 1960s, painting was largely displaced in favor of sculpture, concept was privileged over material, and idea over sensory qualities. Artists associated with Minimalism employed nonhierarchical, mathematical regularity to compose hard-edged, unitary geometric forms, and called for pristine, monochromatic surfaces that appeared untouched by the artist’s hand and announced their status as self-referential objects. By the 1970s, however, artists of the Post-Minimalist movement began to expand this aesthetic with their explorations of the psychical and physical processes involved in the actualization of art, and a new focus on their objects’ materiality and the conditions of their construction. The eight paintings and one sculpture included in Borderline highlight the ways five different artists—Carl Andre, Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, and Richard Serra—navigated this transitional moment, with particular attention to their use of the line as a formal trope.
Drawn from the Guggenheim’s exceptional holdings of Minimalist and Post-Minimalist art, the works on view here present the line as the barest foundation of artistic form. Robert Mangold articulates his paintings’ surface with utmost economy, using straight and curved lines to create irregular geometric forms that highlight their shaped supports.
Agnes Martin covers her canvases with freely-drawn, fragile grids of pencil lines that dissolve into monochromes as viewers back away from the paintings. Her grids, like Mangold’s geometric shapes, emphasize that the edges of an artwork are themselves another set of lines—the boundary between the work itself and the wall on which it hangs.
These borders are explicitly engaged by Robert Ryman, whose white monochromes vary only subtly from the expanse of wall behind them, and by Richard Serra, whose deep black panels, mounted directly to the wall without a frame, form a perceptual abyss.
Finally, for the one sculpture included here, Carl Andre arranges brass plates in a long row directly on the Museum floor, bisecting the gallery space with a borderline that visitors have little choice but to cross.