Robert Morris’s contribution to minimal sculpture from the mid-1960s was unique in its activation of the viewer’s role. His works of this period consist of rigorously pared-down geometric forms, typically arranged into ‘situations’ in which ‘one is aware of one’s own body at the same time that one is aware of the piece’. This signalled a new performative alignment for sculpture, as Untitled 1965/71 demonstrates. Each of the work’s four cubes is exactly three feet square. The space between them is not fixed, but takes into account, as the artist instructed, the size of the room in which they are displayed, ‘always maintaining enough room between them for walking’.
In his text Notes on Sculpture Morris insisted that sculpture is ‘scale, proportion, shape, mass’, and that forms should ‘create strong Gestalt sensations’ – gestalts being patterns or configurations in which the whole has a significance greater than, and different from, any of the parts considered individually. Untitled 1965/71 is a perfect example of a gestalt: its four elements together produce complex interactions with the environment in which they are placed and with the spectator who walks between them, while fully retaining their simple identity. Gestalts are an important aspect of much minimal art, as Morris has stated: ‘Simplicity of shape does not necessarily equate with simplicity of experience. Unitary forms do not reduce relationships.’
This constellation brings together sculpture contemporary to Untitled 1965/71 together with more recent works that demonstrate the powerful legacy of minimalism, tracking various languages of abstraction and how they interface with the body.