- conceptual art
—conceptual artist.art in which emphasis is placed on the means and processes of producing art objects rather than on the objects themselves and in which the various tools and techniques, as photographs, photocopies, video records, and the construction of environments and earthworks, are used to convey the message to the spectator. Also called concept art.
* * *Any of various art forms in which the idea for a work of art is considered more important than the finished product.The theory was explored by Marcel Duchamp from с 1910, but the term was coined in the late 1950s by Edward Kienholz. In the 1960s and '70s it became a major international movement; its leading exponents were Sol LeWitt (b. 1928) and Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945). Its adherents radically redefined art objects, materials, and techniques, and began questioning the very existence and use of art. Its claim is that the "true" work of art is not a physical object produced by the artist for exhibition or sale, but rather consists of "concepts" or "ideas." Typical conceptual works include photographs, texts, maps, graphs, and image-text combinations that are deliberately rendered visually uninteresting or trivial in order to divert attention to the "ideas" they express. Its manifestations have been extremely diverse; a well-known example is Kosuth's One and Three Chairs (1965), which combines a real chair, a photograph of a chair, and a dictionary definition of "chair." Conceptual art was fundamental to much of the art produced in the late 20th century.
* * *also called post-object art or art-as-ideaartwork whose medium is the idea (or concept), usually manipulated by the tools of language and often documented by photography. Its concerns were idea-based rather than formal.Conceptual art is typically associated with a number of American artists of the 1960s and '70s—including Sol LeWitt, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Barry, Mel Bochner, John Baldessari, and others—and in Europe with the English group Art & Language (composed of Terry Atkinson, Michael Baldwin, David Bainbridge, and Harold Hurrell), Richard Long (English), Jan Dibbets (Dutch), and Daniel Buren (French), among others. Never a stylistically unified movement, conceptual art was first so named in 1961 by American theorist and composer Henry Flynt and described in his essay "Concept Art" (1963). The term had international currency by 1967 when LeWitt published his influential "Sentences on Conceptual Art." By the mid-1970s conceptual art had become a widely accepted approach in Western visual art. Despite the resurgence of “traditional” image-based work in the 1980s, conceptual art has been described as the most influential movement of the late 20th century, a logical extension of the work begun by Marcel Duchamp (Duchamp, Marcel) in 1914 to break the primacy of the perceptual in art. Along with its critique of the visual, conceptual art involved a redefinition of the traditional relationship between artist and audience, empowering artists and enabling them to operate outside the gallery system.Other fields of study played a major role in the experience of conceptual art. A variety of projects, proposals, and exhibitions were circulated in publications—including catalogues, artists' books, pamphlets, posters, postcards, and periodicals—which became the primary medium conceptual artists used to publicize ideas and distribute documentation. Photography gained added value as a means of recording an artist's performance of an event and as a way to create conceptual categories of architecture or place, as in the work of the American painter and photographer Ed Ruscha and the German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Philosophers of language including Sir A.J. Ayer (Ayer, Sir A.J.), W.V.O. Quine (Quine, Willard Van Orman), and Ludwig Wittgenstein (Wittgenstein, Ludwig), as well as the field of semiotics, influenced many in the movement. The influence of conceptual art was widespread, and it continued to be seen in the 1980s in the work of artists such as photographer and image appropriator Sherrie Levine and collage artist Barbara Kruger and in the 1990s in the work of artists as disparate as the Scottish video and installation artist Douglas Gordon and the French photographer Sophie Calle.Additional ReadingCollections of essays on conceptual art include Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens (eds.), Philosophy and Conceptual Art (2007); Daniel Marzona and Uta Grosenick (eds.), Conceptual Art (2005); Michael Corris (ed.), Conceptual Art: Theory, Myth, and Practice (2004); Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (eds.), Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (1999); and Gregory Battcock (compiler), Idea Art: A Critical Anthology (1973). Other useful sources are Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art (2002); Paul Wood, Conceptual Art (2002); Carter Ratcliff, Out of the Box: The Reinvention of Art, 1965–1975 (2000); Lucy R. Lippard (ed.), Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (1973, reissued 1997); Kynaston L. McShine (ed.), Information (1970), an exhibition catalog; and Ursula Meyer (compiler), Conceptual Art (1972).
* * *