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Conceptual Art Collage

Conceptual Art

Started: Mid 1960s

Conceptual Art Timeline

Quotes

"People, buying my stuff, can take it wherever they go and can rebuild it if they choose. If they keep it in their heads, that's fine too. They don't have to buy it to have it - they can just have it by knowing it."
Lawrence Weiner
"In order to gain some insight into the forces that elevate certain products to the level of 'works of art' it is helpful - among other investigations - to look into the economic and political underpinnings of the institutions, individuals and groups who share in the control of power."
Hans Haacke
"When objects are presented within the context of art (and until recently objects always have been used) they are as eligible for aesthetic consideration as are any objects in the world, and an aesthetic consideration of an object existing in the realm of art means that the object's existence or functioning in an art context is irrelevant to the aesthetic judgment."
Joseph Kosuth
"All of the significant art of today stems from Conceptual art. This includes the art of installation, political, feminist, and socially directed art."
Sol LeWitt

KEY ARTISTS

Joseph BeuysJoseph Beuys
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John BaldessariJohn Baldessari
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Sol LeWittSol LeWitt
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Robert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg
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Robert SmithsonRobert Smithson
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Walter de MariaWalter de Maria
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More Top Artists

"Ideas alone can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical."

Sol LeWitt Signature

Synopsis

Conceptual art is a movement that prizes ideas over the formal or visual components of art works. An amalgam of various tendencies rather than a tightly cohesive movement, Conceptualism took myriad forms, such as performances, happenings, and ephemera. From the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s Conceptual artists produced works and writings that completely rejected standard ideas of art. Their chief claim - that the articulation of an artistic idea suffices as a work of art - implied that concerns such as aesthetics, expression, skill and marketability were all irrelevant standards by which art was usually judged. So drastically simplified, it might seem to many people that what passes for Conceptual art is not in fact "art" at all, much as Jackson Pollock's "drip" paintings, or Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes (1964), seemed to contradict what previously had passed for art. But it is important to understand Conceptual art in a succession of avant-garde movements (Cubism, Dada, Abstract Expressionism, Pop, etc.) that succeeded in self-consciously expanding the boundaries of art. Conceptualists put themselves at the extreme end of this avant-garde tradition. In truth, it is irrelevant whether this extremely intellectual kind of art matches one's personal views of what art should be, because the fact remains that Conceptual artists successfully redefine the concept of a work of art to the extent that their efforts are widely accepted as art by collectors, gallerists, and museum curators.

Key Ideas

Conceptual artists link their work to a tradition of Marcel Duchamp, whose Readymades had rattled the very definition of the work of art. Like Duchamp before them, they abandoned beauty, rarity, and skill as measures of art.
Conceptual artists recognize that all art is essentially conceptual. In order to emphasize this, many Conceptual artists reduced the material presence of the work to an absolute minimum - a tendency that some have referred to as the "dematerialization" of art.
Conceptual artists were influenced by the brutal simplicity of Minimalism, but they rejected Minimalism's embrace of the conventions of sculpture and painting as mainstays of artistic production. For Conceptual artists, art need not look like a traditional work of art, or even take any physical form at all.
The analysis of art that was pursued by many Conceptual artists encouraged them to believe that if the artist began the artwork, the museum or gallery and the audience in some way completed it. This category of Conceptual art is known as 'institutional critique,' which can be understood as part of an even greater shift away from emphasizing the object-based work of art to pointedly expressing cultural values of society at large.
Much Conceptual art is self-conscious or self-referential. Like Duchamp and other modernists, they created art that is about art, and pushed its limits by using minimal materials and even text.

Beginnings

Conceptual Art Image

One of the most important precedents for Conceptual art was the work of Dada artist Marcel Duchamp, who in the early-20th century established the idea of the "Readymade" - the found object that is simply nominated or chosen by the artist to be a work of art, without adaptations to the object beyond a signature. The first and most famous true Readymade was Fountain (1917), which was nothing more than a porcelain urinal, reoriented ninety degrees, placed on a stand and signed and dated under the alias "R. Mutt." Duchamp described his Readymades as "anti-retinal," and dismissed the popular conception that works of art need demonstrate artistic skill. In the 1950s, long after several of his original Readymades had been lost, Duchamp re-issued Fountain and other Readymades for the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. These acts sparked a resurgence of interest in his work, which not only brought the emergence of Neo-Dada led by John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns, but also rekindled a widespread interest in idea-based art throughout the contemporary art world.

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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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