Conceptual Art

We have been given a new brief which is on Conceptual Art, to work out what it is etc,  and research four artists, and produce a conceptual artwork based on the notion of ‘celebrity’.  According to the MOMA website, ‘Concept Art’ was term used to describe works of art in which the engagement with ideas of the work was the primary purpose, rather than engagement with the artwork itself.  Henry Flynt named his performance pieces in 1961 as ‘concept art’ but the term came into more general use in the Americas and in Europe later after Sol Lewitt published an article about it in 1967. 

“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work . . . all planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.”
Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), in “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in Artforum, summer issue, 1967.

According to ArtLex, conceptual art can involve the art object being completely replaced by the art idea, with no object left..just a description instead, this was particularly true of the Art and Language Group. Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin’s 1967 ‘Map Not to Indicate’ is described by the Tate Gallery website:

Map Not to Indicate is one of a series of three prints created by the collective Art and Language, which play with the conventions of marking the world’s geographical boundaries. The extensive title lists all the geographic areas that the artists have removed from the map. Only Iowa and Kentucky are outlined and labelled but, floating like islands, they lose geographical relevance, metaphorically cast adrift from their cartographic moorings. p01357_9

Although my research came up with a rather narrow period when Conceptual Art as a movement was in its heyday, during the late 60’s primarily, this does not make sense. To me the first conceptual piece was long before this, when Duchamps presented the Fountain, which challenged all sorts of notions about what is art, and whether it resides in the aesthetic qualities of the work or the intention and ideas behind it.  Lots of contemporary artists are still working in ways that can best be described as conceptual.Having heard Tracey Emin talk about her work “It’s not the way I want to Die” from 1995, it seems to me this a conceptual art work, as well as being aesthetically exciting.  She described the thought processes and idea that it expressed as being how mood, and even life itself, can be dictated by hormonal influences over which one has no control.



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