What is it?
Conceptualism is ‘idea art’ it is not categorized with painting or sculpture but uses the materials an artist deems appropriate to put their idea across. There is no certain style or trend that outlines conceptual art but there are common ways that emerged between the mid 1960’s and 70’s. Conceptual art spread across Europe, North America and South America. The most widely used techniques include;

  • performance art
  • instructions (Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings instructions and diagrams)
  • actions – similar to performance but letting things happen (Beuys sat in a room covered in felt with a coyote as an expression of his anti vietnam war stance.
  • land art – physical intervention with the landscape (Richard’s stomping of onle row of grass to flatten it which showed in a photograph when the light was shining at the right angle)
  • body art
  • found objects (challenging what we class as art objects)
  • documentation (documenting a process or period of time like “post partum document 1975 – the documentation of a mother and sons relationship over 6 years)
  • written statement

Conceptual artists emphasised the processes and methods rather than the finished object as a criticism of the commercialised art world as because there were no ‘finished’ objects they couldn’t be bought and sold placing the value of the work on its ideas. Much conceptual art comments/ addresses social and governmental issues.

Marcel Duchamp is known as one of Conceptualisms forefounders specifically his work “fountain”

Joseph Kosuth, Art After Philosophy (1969)
I think the main ideas behind this text are that artists should be questioning art and philosophy and Kosuth thinks this isn’t happening. More than anything it seems he comes from a position of opinion that conceptual art is most valuable and “half or more of the best new work in the last few years has been neither painting nor art” which kind of takes you back to the debate of what separates painting and sculpture and the ‘flatness’ issues.  Found the article very hard to read and I’m unsure if I at all got the jist of it?

Read Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art, (1969)

Theses numbered sentences that seem to follow some kind of flow from one leading to the other are almost equally as confusing as the first article but I think it highlights the importance of the idea and its value in creating new ideas, leaving logic behind but following illogical/ irrational ideas logically?

“When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.”
The nature of Conceptual art according to LeWitt should not be limited by labels of outcomes “Ideas implement the concept”. He talks of one concept creating different idea chains between artists and no form is more superior to another but the right form is that which is appropriate to the idea and they are all equal.

However the best ‘sentence’ in my opinion is “Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.”

Repetition and circulation and readymades

Duchamps readymades, mainly Fountain are curious as the are repeated but there was never an original because the objects are that of mass production, and in the case of fountain the initial fountain has been lost so it exists only it its repeated forms.

The readymade is a ‘snapshot’ a ‘rendezvous’ or a moment between artist and object and becomes a readymade due to inscription or relocation/ repositioning. The signature on the urinal is a repetition of the comic Mutt and Jeff a ‘household name’ used as a linguistic pun, Richard in french a slang term for rich man – each part of the work is considered. The urinal is repeated (not exactly) in different context to comment on different issues or different purposes. Reproducing work in complicated or elaborate ways to emphasise the importance of process even in reproduction. Reproductions in different forms e.g blueprints for the replication of the initial fountain.
The overarching message of the lecture from David Joselit is that an object can disappear into reproduction. How exact reproduction of the notes on Duchamps bachelor and bride gives them value because of the extensive processes he goes to to make them exact copies


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