Monday, March 14, 2011

Conceptual Art: Art as an idea

The popularization of conceptual art started in the 1960s and has continued until present day. It is through performance, installation, found or created objects, and many other forms that artists express ideas-based art. One of the first conceptualist was Marcel Duchamps with is piece Fountain (1917). At this moment in time, his piece changed the traditional conceptions of what art objects should be made of and what it should look like. Art should be about intellectual stimulation; the process matters more than the physical material.

This form of art has been perceived as shocking, skill-less, and controversial. Either you love or hate it. From my perspective, the job of conceptual artists is to encourage a new understanding of art, artists and artistic experience. The intellectual exploration of conceptual art is concerned with ideas and meanings, rather than forms and materials. Minimal artist Vito Acconci used himself as a subject in Seedbed (1972) in which he performed disturbing practices in order to demonstrate the conflict between private and public spaces and realms. Becoming the subject, Vito pushed the concept of allowing the viewer to experience the art in an unconventional way.

Conceptual art challenges our intuitions concerning the limits of what can be considered art. Where do we draw the line? These artists bring a new questioning to art. In some ways, any idea can be added to any object. What is the difference between art and a random item in a gallery setting? But any thoughtful man-made object may be considered art. What is important is the thought process of conception.

Conceptual art is not about creating beautiful master pieces or showing good technical work but presenting ideas. The creative process and meaning behind the finished piece is opposed to visual splendour of traditional art works. The viewer is force fed with an idea through the paintings. The person just admires and respects the technicality and aesthetic of the art piece. We don’t know about the development or the story behind it. The visual aspect is the most important value of traditional art. In the case of conceptual art, an image may be present, but the idea behind it is of greater importance than its execution or physical manifestation. I agree with Lewitt that in conceptual art, “banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.” The power of art is behind the thinking not necessarily the finished work.

The conceptual art movement of the 1960s and 1970s continued to influence and animate the work of many artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


1 comment:

  1. Interesting stuff, Although I'm interested to know why you cite the 60's & 70's as ' the popularisation' conceptual art?

    Art can surely only exist for its own sake. Beyond that it is design or mere decoration. (Good) design is art that people use and people will always be drawn to decoration.

    However, without externalising the ideas you have as an artist, they are merely thoughts in your head or words you speak or indeed air that you sculpt with your hands. If this is the case then it is performance and relies upon the charisma etc. of the person and the willingness of their audience to accept.

    Therefore, I would always champion the artist who seeks to express themselves visually over the one who tries to convince the world of their intellect.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say concept or meaning behind work is an irrelevance but without a visual form it is neither art nor design nor decoration and exists only for the 'artist's' own self-satisfaction.