“Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change; To something new, to something strange; Nothing that is can pause or stay…..”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
And then there is difference.
Two words entered my playground this past week, one I was familiar with the other was new for me: minimalism I am familiar, with but maximalism I wasn’t. Ok perhaps I am just not current with trends, or perhaps I choose to not like to label things but; I liked the word, really liked it so I looked it up and I immediately visualized in many places where I have seen maximalism. Designers are using the word. Maximalism is defined as, bold color, I think of the lime green in the hotel I stayed in last weekend mixed with orange. I think of the 20-30 year olds wearing mixed plaids and stripes and colors that don’t seem to match or go together. I discovered through my brief on line research that maximalism is a mixture of colors, patterns and textures that don’t match. Maximalism is also defined as, luxurious fabrics, furs and metallics, detailed pattern. According to House Beautiful “maximalism is the epitome of the passion, power and joy that can be expressed through a room. Glamour and luxury are making their mainstream comeback. “ It is a mix of colors, patterns and textures that don’t match that I had been taught when I was in my 20’s and 30’s don’t go together. Maximalism is the complete opposite of what I had been taught. That makes sense to me because those of us who follow the rules when required to but break them whenever and where ever we can do just that, especially if we call ourselves artists, artisans, creatives. How else can one be those things? At least that is the conclusion I came to after many years of being educated.
Thanks that don’t match – my favorite saying when I was younger and still is today is “art does not have to match your sofa – in fact if it does then it isn’t art.” But as most of you know I believe one can’t stand on belief it is subjective – so I turn back to history and ask how historically speaking have others reacted to change and shifts in thinking? Maximalism is a shift in thinking. I found myself immediately turning to baroque/rococo art from your 17th-18th Century. Large, colorful, irregular, lots of gold, opulence, grandeur, emotionalism. Baroque art, architecture, music emerged as the rule breakers for the classical mannerist Renaissance style. Baroque art was maximalism back then it was just called baroque instead of maximalism, note each label seems to suit its time in history. So what rules needed to rethought after the run of baroque opulence and grandeur and emotionalism? History shows us it was Neo Classicism and the first post modernism. At least those are the labels historians identify as the time after baroque.
Modernism was a cry for change because the older foundations of the baroque did not work in changing societies and cultures. Sciences, economics, social and political environments were changing and changing quickly. A clean slick, new, modern look emerged. The work was functional, no embellishments. The work as minimal.
But something else happened in modernism, many artists, artisans, architects, musicians began to look for a purity, which they identified as a truth or the pure essense of an art object. Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, the Bauhaus school, de Kooning, Kandinsky, Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Greenburg Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell stating that the purity of anything has to come from the act of creating.
A combination of art and styles emerged, minimalism also suggested blending in with the environment, Frank Lloyd Wright comes to mind. But also the cultural trends of the baroque continued with items that already existed like a rake, a toilet seat, pieces of wood, goats, tires where used to try and break the rules of opulence that the baroque loved. DuChamp, Raushchenberg, Johns, Nevelson.
This shifting to the opposite created a pattern in art history. And if patterns mean anything I can’t help but wonder what will happen after maximalism ? I also can’t help but think as I play with these words how they fit today in our current Western societies and cultures. Today we seem to be maximalist, there is difference, many patterns, many colors, bold, soft mixed together.
So my question becomes where is our difference – where is our uniqueness? If we all are maximalists then we all aren’t maximalists – we need difference. So the rule breakers will enter the arena and want to play and break the rules. Will things begin to match again, will minimalism reappear? Or have both of these two ism’s existed together all along? Defining each other – moving forward. Since the 60’s art history seems to say yes they have.
I like to think of myself as both a minimalist and a maximalist and I wonder why folks what to label me one or the other? Why do they need to classify me like I belong in some taxonomy somewhere as one or the other. Life today is not that simple. Defining difference is what keeps the wheels rolling, turning. Difference is not something that is bad, we don’t all need to match our sofas. We are unique, one of a kind, originals, we are a work of art. I forever question why others wish to take my uniqueness away – my answer is always the same, they want my energy, they want my power so they perhaps might not match their sofa.
So I am going to let these two words play in my playground for a while. See what happens. Perhaps I will come up with a different way of thinking about this. Suggestions?