... those two kinds of minimalism — sleek lifestyle branding and enforced austerity — don’t quite convey the enormousness of the subject Chayka explores in this slender book ... The book itself is like an exercise in decluttering, as Chayka cycles through different ideas in order to find those he wants to keep ... generates more questions than it answers — which is only appropriate, considering that the 'deeper minimalism' Chayka pursues is more about vulnerability than control ... Reading Chayka’s book put me in mind of a longing for less stuff, and a longing for more support.
...a new book by the journalist and critic Kyle Chayka, arrives not as an addition to the minimalist canon but as a corrective to it ... Along the way, he offers sharp critiques of thing-oriented minimalism. The sleek, simple devices produced by Apple, which encourage us to seamlessly glide through the day by tapping and swiping on pocket-size screens, rely on a hidden 'maximalist assemblage' ... His dual response to the all-white apartment is one of the only moments in The Longing for Less when Chayka acknowledges his attraction to superficial minimalism, but that attraction pulses throughout the book. The writing has a careful tastefulness ... In a way, Chayka’s book replicates the conflict he’s attempting to uncover—between the security and cleanliness of a frictionless affect and the necessity of friction for uncovering truth. He does have moments of productive discomfort ... Chayka best conveys the unnerving existential confrontation that minimalism can create in his capsule biographies ... This is, in the end, the most convincing argument for minimalism: with less noise in our heads, we might hear the emergency sirens more clearly.
Chayka suspects, astutely, that minimalism can be used not just to make complex experiences simpler, but the other way around ... Chayka’s odyssey through the modern minimalist tradition is worthy of a stand-alone text. His study of the 'blank spaces' explored by the painter Agnes Martin, the architect Philip Johnson, the composer Julius Eastman, and many others is an exercise in grace and fidelity ... Thanks to Chayka, cultural opportunists will not have the last word.
It’s unclear whether the Kondo-style approach to home organization has anything to do with seismic shifts in art and architecture—and that’s the fundamental flaw of Mr. Chayka’s book. Because of this disconnect, The Longing for Less leaves you wanting more: either a deep explanation of the cultural factors contributing to the rise of minimalist aesthetics today, or an incisive piece of art criticism that casts new light on the Minimalist art movement. You get neither ... For someone who rejects aesthetic minimalism, Mr. Chayka takes a while to get past it ... Mr. Chayka’s mistaken assumption is that today’s professed minimalists, by taming their consumerism, are expressing their entire life ethos. Some just want organized sock drawers.
... the popular version of the movement soon drops out of the book. The following chapters, often broken into fragments, ruminate on the most culturally exalted manifestations of minimalism: fine artists like Donald Judd, avant-garde composers like John Cage, and Japanese writers and philosophers who elucidated the Zen-influenced aesthetics of their own culture...This is disappointing, and at times intellectually muddled. What begins, promisingly, as wide-ranging synthesis of a fascinating and perplexing impulse becomes an exercise in taste, a guide to distinguishing between 'good' and 'bad' minimalism ... It’s not that this kind of analysis has no merits; Chayka makes a fine art critic who persuasively argues for the power of works associated with the minimalism movement...He testifies, persuasively, to having experienced some transcendent moments when meeting those challenges ... But there’s a good deal of been-there-done-that in The Longing for Less. Plenty of critics have made the case for these minimalist artists, whose heyday came in the 1950s and ’60s. The fresher subject of contemporary lifestyle minimalism and its relationship to this high-art past goes largely unexplored ... True, the quintessential blogger minimalists often seem to rely, paradoxically, on the fetishization of certain perfect commodities...But high-art minimalism has its fair share of absurdities, too ... I found myself wishing that Chayka might occasionally live up to this rhetoric and succumb to the charms of a stand mixer or any other genuinely mass-produced object, minimalist in style or not.
... an intriguing deep dive into the many manifestations of minimalism ... lively ... so thoughtful and absorbing it is quibbling to wish there were more photos and some consideration of literary minimalism ... A superb outing from a gifted young critic that will spark joy for many readers.