Doing a lot with very little was American minimalist Craig Kauffman’s M.O. Here, Sprüth Magers has assembled a small handful of the artist’s (1932-2010) sculptures (and some by his buddies Donald Judd and Robert Morris) to show just how maximally great his minimalism was.
The first room is the most eye-popping. There’s a big orange Kauffman lozenge on the wall – a giant’s Strepsil of a sculpture – and a sheet of hanging coloured Perspex next to it, casting a multi-coloured shadow against the wall. In front of them, two works by Judd: a wall piece and a floor piece. It’s such a statement of a room, a micro-history of minimalism.
Kauffman and Judd were masters of stripping away, chiselling at the DNA of art, removing form, gesture, complexity and trying desperately to take the artist’s hands out of the work. Kauffman and Judd didn’t even make these works, industrial fabricators did. There’s shape here, and colour and light, but that’s it, and it’s stunning
But here’s the minimal rub: minimalism came about as a reaction to the overwrought art of the abstract expressionists. All around Kauffman and pals, the popular art of the time was about gesture and emotion, so they wanted to do the opposite. But that was then: does minimalism still matter now that it’s not kicking against anything? It’s hard to say yes.
But it’s also hard to not be totally in love with Kauffman’s art. That opening room is followed by another lozenge next door, an airy assemblage of Perspex strips upstairs and a sculpture that looks like a buttery cake filled with caramel, or the hood of an undrivable car.
There’s just not enough of it, and the works by Judd and Morris just distract from Kauffman. It’s half a show, really. But if you get over that, you’re rewarded with the chance to just stand there and absorb the light of Kauffman’s art, and get totally lost in it.