Thursday, September 21, 2006

Conceptual art

1- According to conceptual art, the "concept" is more important than the work itself. This is not new (idealists have maintained that conception is more important than execution in that ideas are unpolluted by accidents): Art as a mental form; perceived, evaluated and savored as ideological and communicative instead of object-like and/or "expressive." Anything that is made up of "information" (including a written proposal, photographs, documents, maps and whatnot) counts as conceptual (the term has come to encompass all art forms outside traditional painting or sculpture). 2- Conceptual art can be traced back to Marcel Duchamp, who from the second decade of the 20th century produced various iconoclastic pieces in which he questioned the traditional values of the art world. However, conceptual art did not acquire a name or become a recognized movement until the late 1960s. Since then, the conceptual trend became widespread, flourishing at the same time as other movements, such as Arte Povera, Land art, Performance art and video art. 3- Conceptual art was initially anti-commercial. Artists thought that by eliminating objecthood, they would rid themselves of the problem of commodification behind “collectable art” (it didn't happen, after the movement was legitimized, conceptual art was very much collected). 4- By conveying a "conceptual message" artists rejected the Humanist stereotype of "creator" or "talent" so prevalent in the genius culture that developed since the mid-19th Century. 5- Conceptual art takes a great variety of forms, such as diagrams, photographs, video tapes, sets of instructions, and so on. 6- The movement was the forerunner for installation, digital, and other art forms in the 1990's.


Michele Rowand said...

On the topic of making art the concept and not the execution of the piece to remove the element of "accident" in the creative process - did Prof. Triff also say that one school of thought is that we are born with our capacity for language already in our DNA somehow. So I would argue that all human life begins with the "accidental" encounter with an egg and sperm which determines our DNA which also determine our intellectual capacity and so forth down the line. So it is actually impossible for all human thought to be a pure act of will. We all come with some software preloaded into us. That's our operating system no matter how hard we would like to believe we are self-programming.

Gean's comments on his art last night really made me ponder many concepts. This leads me to the question "What is an artist". Is there any artist who would not consider themself to be marginal to society somehow? The very desire to be creative sets one apart. If you want to be creative and hang it on a wall or stand it in the town square for all to see you are again acting unlike the majority of others. And if you have the notion of actually making money at your self expression that again sets you apart from many who, in spite of good work, never can live off of what they love to do.

So what is an artist? A craftsperson with a flair for social commentary? A person with psychological issues who uses their creative projects to mend their wound from abusive relationships? An activist. Triff seems to like "heroes" of sorts. Are artists all potential heroes since they presumably have audiences. Are they role models or anti-role models?

I hate to admit it but when I first heard the explanation of conceptual art my first thought was
"Oh good. I am much better at concepts then in the execution of my art so if I joint the conceptual school of thought it lets me off the hook in the craftsmanship department." but I've let that lazy thought go by. I do like the concept of perceiving art in all of the dimensions. I'll have to look up more on what the dimensions are considered to be and mull this one over more.

Also, Gean, another part of considering art to be ones "babies" is that long after they are no longer your own you still get pleasure out of reexperieincing them in other settings and under other influences. My own personal baby is now 23 and married but the pleasure of experiencing him again in other lights is very satistying to me.

While I understand Gean's point of not getting too locked into an item so that you can't stop and break it down somewhat to build it back up again - a la 2 dimensional design class and abstract art projects - in the world of 3 dimensional design - and capturing volume - permanance comes with the firing process. The thought of destroying previous art just to make room for new art (which is where we were talking in class) would to me be like executing an old boyfriend before moving on to a new one. A bit drastic for me. What would make someone so determined not to sell their work that they would rather destroy it? I don't get it. Just like I don't get mothers who decide to kill themselves and take their 3 kids along with them because they can't bear for someone else to have them either.

I found Gean to be extremely thought provoking by his comments on his artistic process. Thanks Gean!

Christie Llorente said...

I hope that we can discuss conceptual art later on this semester, I feel like there is so much more to be said on conceptual art. I think that for the most part, great works of art exist because the concept aspect was there to begin with. Wikipedia states that "Conceptual art may not entail any art object per se, but instead manifest solely as documentary evidence for an 'art idea'." I find this statement to be so liberating and exciting.

To some degree when I'm working on my paintings I find myself thinking about the concept and then that leads me to paint in that way. I agree that it concept can be more important than execution.

I also believe that it is really difficult to escape commodification,
I think artists can certainly try to make work that appears like it can't be collected, but I think everything eventually catches on in one way or another. Wouldn't that make some people want to collect that art more, the fact that is deemed "uncollectable". Also that work being shown in galleries would have to be successful in some kind of way, otherwise it wouldn't be there?

Gean Moreno's work was really interesting to me. I loved the amount of layers in his work, and the colors. I think he has a lot to say as an artist, I'm just not sure he knows how to say it all the time. The subject matter of his work/concepts are large and abstract, I think I would have a hard time explaining certain things too. One of the things I found most interesting was how he presented his paintings in the middle of the room, instead of being hung on the walls. Wonderful way of utilizing the space. I don't think he should stop making his paintings/collages, I think he should let those idea evolve into something else.

maya aujla said...

I love the fact that conceptual art includes all these other forms of art such as video and installation art, instead of just the traditional ones. I am currently taking a multimedia/video class this semester and as the class has progressed, I have realized that the concept of any work of art is its underlying structure. The concept is what pulls an entire installation piece together. I completely agree with the statement that “the ‘concept’ is more important than the work itself.” Yes, the aesthetics of a piece may be the first attraction for a viewer, but it’s the concept that the viewer leaves with and remembers about that particular piece of artwork.

As far as what Christie said, “Also that work being shown in galleries would have to be successful in some kind of way, otherwise it wouldn't be there?” I am not too sure I agree with that statement. Many of the artists that are famous now got to where they are because of who they know. The art world is all about connections. One artist’s work doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘good’ or ‘successful’ to be in a gallery. That artist may know the curator or gallery owner personally and that’s how they got their show.

I am currently working on the concept for my BFA show in December and I really see how important it is to develop the concept of a piece first before actually beginning the work on it. I think I am going to be presenting a multimedia installation in the CAS gallery. It’s not quite official yet, but I think the dates are Dec. 11-15, if anyone is interested in seeing my first installation piece. I don’t want to give too much of it away, so all I am going to say is that it includes hand blown glass and graphic design.

Dominic Hallley-Roarke said...

If conceptual art makes the idea behind it more important the the art itself, it seems to me that it then opens itself to being judged on how well it communicates that idea, or even how well it might suggest several possible ideas. This were a lot of conceptual art fails to me; I can't get a good sense of what idea(s) generated it or even some good clues.
My other problem with conceptual art is that I doubt the capacity of the purely visual to convey complex ideas. I think this why much conceptual art seems to involve text. Margritte's "this is not a pipe" would not have anywhere near the same meaning (that of the difference between the object and its representation) without the caption. It is for this reason I find attempts to deal with complex social and/or psychological issues by art alone to be unconvincing. It seems to me that these areas of human experince require analysis, an understanding of their causes, and I doubt that the purely visual, without the extensive use of verbal/written language can do this.

A.T. said...

Dominic, but then there's the metaphoric power of images. Is (elicited metaphoric) meaning less complex as meaning?

Dominic Halley-Roarke said...

How is the metaphor established, if not ultimately through language? (This is an aspect of the problem of complex thought existing independent of language, I would think). Can a metaphor, even a purely verbal one, analyze with the same effectiveness as a direct statement?

Ernie Marc Selditch said...

Conceptual Art: Conceptual Culture

This is a difficult subject for me to get my head around, as if it’s some kind of new idea. I think not! Wasn’t it the Neanderthal’s concept to paint galleries of specific animals in different areas of caves? We all agree that there was something more going on there than just the paintings; which most agree is quite technically astute. The Egyptians had a concept of an afterlife and used art to spread the concept. The Jews had the concept of a gilt ark that held the power of the words of the Lord. Buddhists conceptualize wheels as prayers. The Christians conceptualized the crucifix as a symbol of Jesus’ suffering. The Moslems use geometric patterns so as not to conceptualize images of people or animals.
Since the beginning of time peoples have conceptualized art as part of their culture.
Could one say that a curator putting together a concept exhibit was himself or herself a concept artist (?)

Oh! What we are saying is that in 1917 Marcel Duchamp played a potty prank entitled “Fountain”, under the pseudonym “R. Mutt” at the expense of the starched collars who rejected his rather good abstract piece entitled “Nude Descending Staircase”, and some forty years later the genre was named conceptual art and then some ten years later an exhibit opened at the New York Culture Center featuring Conceptual Art and Conceptual Artists.

The whole plot delights me, Duchamp a chess playing genius, his ready-mades were pleasurable to see on so many levels that I can’t even begin to conceive of. For upsetting the apple cart of those tight assed, still life aficionados I’d like to offer the most esteemed kudos to M. Duchamp!

Bryan F. said...

I feel like "conceptual" art is getting us further and further from what is commonly accepted as art. If the concept is the most important aspect of the piece, not the content, then why cant it be any more than just that, a concept. If the concept cannot stand alone as art, then its representation in an "artistic" form should not either. Wouldn't the written or spoken concept have the same value since the form it take its apparently irrelevant. I think it is a quick and easy way out, and can even be a short cut to art without the necessity of artistic ability. If no artistic ability is involved in the process then it is simply a jumble of object being pawned off as art.

Anonymous said...

The ideas behind Conceptual art have always challenged me and my own thoughts about Art. The idea that the thought process or concept is more important than the end result can be confusing at times. Art that is made with only intentions of conveying an idea or a concept to the perceiver seems almost an incomplete process. Certainly the idea behind, or the motives intended are important and relevant, but do those ideas matter more than its own physical identity? I’m not so sure. It would seem to me that the merging of the two would seem like a more interesting and complete concept. None the less, it is hard to reject the principles behind conceptual art. This movement came about with the intentions of challenging people’s guidelines about what Art was/is. It was a rebellion against the commercial art world, and it questioned the meaning of Art itself. This is commendable concept.

Jessica Sanders said...

From what I have found, all good art is backed up by a good concept. There seems to be line going from pure aesthetics to pure concept, and I find that the best art lies somewhere in between. Purely conceptual art can be just that, a concept, and then it is no longer visual art. Visual art should be visual. It doesn’t have to be visually pleasing, but to show no consideration for the visual aspect of a visual art is to ignore what it is. If the visual aspect of the art is lost, or not given any consideration, the artist might as well write it down or say it. The visual aspect should add to the concept, give it another dimension, which would other wise be lost.
If there is a good concept, having something that is visually strong, well composed, and meaningful is not going to take away from the concept. Look at German Expressionism in the early 1900s. The work is amazingly powerful, conveying a sense of angst and unhappiness unparalleled in art. Yet it is not technically skilled in the way of craft. The figures are not naturalistic, they are not modeled…the entire idea is to create in a way that furthers their idea, that conveys the suffering they were going through. Although it might not be conceptual art in the history books, I feel that much art, like German Expressionism, is weighed heavily on the concept end of the scale, and that art with strong concept created in a visually strong way is most successful

Francisca said...

I do not think an art piece can be considered art without a concept reinforcing the work. Without an intangible concept an art piece has no substance or foundation. However good art represents both the artistic aesthetic and the conceptual aspects completely. The concept and the physical work are equally important. Obviously if the physical piece is considered “bad” then no one is going to understand or care about the concept behind it. The artist’s intent is paramount because without it anything could be considered art. I agree with Ernie when he wrote, “since the beginning of time people have conceptualized art as part of their culture”. I don’t know if I agree that the concept is more important than the work itself, but it is a very crucial aspect of any art.

Kelly Flynn said...

I sometimes find conceptual art more interesting. I am usually not concerned with images looking “pretty” but rather what kind of message are they trying to portray, and consider the piece “successful” if I remember it the next day. In my own work, I usually think of what it is that I am trying to "say" and then work backwards from there to figure out how the image will be set up. A problem that some conceptual artists run into is that they can have there work shown in galleries, but can’t sell their work because it does no go in the “home”.