Ad Reinhardt, the victory of minimalism

One of the wonderful things of being in Madrid is that many interesting places are walking distance from home. If they are a bit farther away, I can always jump on a rental scooter, on a little motorbike, or a bicycle, if it’s harsh weather I can take public transportation like buses or metro. In a worst-case scenario, I can rent a car per hours. My dinosaur Land Rover cannot be legally parked downtown.

Recently I walked to the Fundación Juan March, which I have talked about before in this blog to see a great exhibit on Ad Reinhardt, a groundbreaking abstract American painter. The exhibit was split into two distinct areas: an area of his paintings showing his evolution into the purest minimalism (see the photo of the red painting) where a monochromatic canvas has only the most subtle color variations, mesmerizing!

The other part covers Reinhardt’s career as an illustrator, teacher, activist, and designer.

He also coined some evident but necessary phrases like

Art is Art. Everything else is everything else

Ad Reindhardt

or

Art is too serious to be taken seriously

Ad Reindhardt

If you get a chance to see the exhibit in Madrid, go now. If Madrid is not an option go check out his paintings at the Museum Folkwang Essen, SFMOMA in San Francisco, and of course the New York MOMA and the Met.

On minimalism

For the last few years, I have been trying to consciously deepen my spirituality. I have focused on my body – mind – soul connection, if you follow this blog (thank you), you will have already read about my retreats and my constant search for deeper meaning in life.

Well, one of the aspects of this process has to do with stuff, yes stuff – we have too much. For years, I have thought about my stuff, my belongings, clothes, furniture, accessories, gadgets, etc., and my attachment to them. In 2018 I got rid of many things when I moved back to Spain from the US, bringing with me only two suitcases and having only a couple of boxes –and two bicycles. This was not as traumatic as I thought it would be, and quite frankly I do not remember most of what I left behind. Now back in the US I am very conscious of how to go about starting, basically from scratch, since this time I only brought with me the two suitcases, no boxes, not even the bicycles!

Minder is meer. Mies van der Rohe

After four months I still do not have a sofa. Yes, I did buy a bed at Ikea, I am not sleeping on the floor just yet…. One of the many criteria about investing in new things is: Is it sustainable? My dining room table is from the Habitat for Humanity Store which means it is recycled and I helped others in my purchase.

Free of stuff I find it easier to focus, I am reading much more, I have not needed to hire a cleaning lady, I just sweep the floors once a week. Life is much, much easier! If you do some quick research you will find that the happiest people on the planet happen to be the Buddhist monks, further investigation will reveal that they only personally own about 8 things (something like 2 robes, 2 towels, a shaving blade, a bowl, a belt, and needle and thread). Obviously, I own many more things than a Buddhist monk, but a, there is a goal, and b, the important bit is being very conscious about your possessions.

Since in the US it is basically impossible to live without a car (except if you live in one of the few real downtowns) I bought a 2017 VW Golf. Possibly the best value for money in automobiles. As I stubbornly hold on to my vanity and ego, I did make sure it is a manual gearbox, because as everybody knows, if you drive stick you are a better person (or at least a cooler one).

The other day I saw a documentary about minimalism, based on a recent popular book, it reinforced everything I have been considering for the last few years. When I followed up on the documentary, I realized there is a whole movement dedicated to de-cluttering one’s life, simplifying, minimizing, tiny homes, etc. etc. I guess I am not as cutting edge as I thought I was, but at least it is good to know.

I used to have an empty cardboard wine bottle box and I would fill it with stuff that I no longer needed, clothes I no longer wore, books I had read and so on, and when it was full I would take it to the thrift shop and grab another empty box to start all over again!

There are many advantages to living with less stuff: you have more time to do things you would not do if you had a lot of things. For me, it is reading, I am reading a lot these days. Living with less means you save a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on buying things, duh. You also have more clarity, literally and figuratively.

In conclusion, I recommend you think about your things, what do you really need? and start a cleansing process, or call it a curating process and you might feel better about it. I think you will appreciate it. Have any thoughts or ideas? Let me know in the comments, thanks!