Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconhq: More from hq

Featured in Collections

HQ by JamminJo

journals by SophieBrigitteXD

Journals by Ann-McLaren

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
December 7, 2011


54,226 (1 today)
1,055 (who?)

by techgnotic
Wed Dec 7, 2011, 7:59 PM

Duchamp finds a discarded urinal.  He alters it (by signing a name to it not even his own, but obviously “the artist’s”)
and names it “The Fountain”. The most mundane, even off-putting, of objects is transformed by Duchamp into art. He submits
it for exhibition and it is rejected.  You might say the judges “pissed on” his idea. But the idea was born and persisted.
Duchamp insisted the object was art because he as an artist presented it as such. “Conceptual Art” was born.

A Theory of the Essence of Art: The Concept is Everything.

Artists following Duchamp sought to really get at what art is all about by diminishing the compositional and aesthetic
element of an artwork and concentrating on what “art says about it itself” – the commentary a piece of art makes on artist
and viewer, on the very nature of art, on why we make art and look at it and what the experience means.

What if an artwork is wildly technically accomplished but “means” little or nothing to the artist?

Michelangelo spent six years painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling and another six adding “The Final Judgment”. He especially
resented the ceiling job, considering it the Pope’s “vanity” project.  Now his genius is recognized, but at the time he felt like he was doing slave labor, rather than making his own statement in art.

Hostages Of Temptation by oO-Rein-Oo:thumb24477654:retirement installation: then by jordanmart

Conceptualists take the “idea” in art and posit that artistic skill is not the point.
“The Concept” is the whole message, the whole point of the message, the expression, the human exchange.

Yoko Ono "published" as art her notes on how to go about having an aesthetic experience with art.

Alfred Hitchcock meticulously crafted screenplays and fully “storyboarded” (made scene by scene drawings exactly as the camera would
frame each scene) before rolling film on his movies. He complained that the real moviemaking, the real artistry, came in the creation of
the storyboards. After that, he felt, his movie was “done.” He found the actual filming redundant and boring.

But what if these abstract modern artists are really just con men or hacks who can’t draw?

Check out Jackson Pollock's early abstract paintings that he did before he began dripping paint on the floor.

Check out Rauschenberg’s 300 early paintings before “his” “Erased De Kooniong Drawing”.

Check out Miro’s early representational work from before the sculptures and mobiles.

Check out Julian Schnabel’s early paintings from before he started gluing broken plates to walls.

There’s quite a body of evidence that “conceptual art” isn’t a con. Real artists go where their muse takes them – even if it’s to “the thought” that births the art becoming the art itself.

Worrying about artists’ motives brings up the question of “artist’s intention”.Conception and intention are different.  A traditional
artist “intends” to achieve expressing something for him/herself and/or to an audience through an artwork.  The artist’s intent may be to
capture and invoke sadness, apathy, ecstasy, whimsy, etc.  When DuChamp did his Urinal he was only talking about the meaning of art itself, he was not trying to convey any other idea.

Just a wish by Kyuthi The Grandpa Tales by theSong SUPER PSY by cetrobo

At the end of it all, can we ever really know an artist’s intention or fully understand his/her big concept?  We often think we can and do.
Like we think we know the heart of our beloved. That little leap of faith is what art – and life – is all about.  And all the affirmations and
disillusionments that follow in the wake of each momentous jump into the unknown we kind of think we know is a part of that Big Concept.

Questions for the Reader:

  1. If an artist makes you think up is down it could be construed as a game, a trick, or an artifice like a landscape reflected in a clear lake. Conceptual art is something that makes you wonder why there is an up or down and doesn’t confuse that effort with any particular “art.”  If there is no art to see, is it art at all? or maybe just a dialectic?”
  2. Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, wrapped eleven islands in Biscayne Bay in pink fabric for two weeks.   What do you think these artists were saying about the environment?  That natural beauty is a gift?  Or a gift that needs no wrapping?  Or a gift in danger of being ruined by commercialization? Or that natures artwork can only be represented or framed in anew light, but never improved, by the artist?
  3. Andy kaufman was a comedian who turned “stand-up” into performance art, sometimes “ending” his routine by walking his entire audience to a nearby 7-Eleven for snacks.  Sometimes he remained “in-character” as a pro wrestler or a bad lounge singer for weeks at a time.  Do you know of other artists who have “conceptually” burst the normal bounds of their specific art forms in amazing ways?
  4. Is the “Occupy Wall Street” movement not only a political statement, but also an example of conceptual performance art or “street theatre”?  Should art and protest be clearly defined or are they too closely related to ever be easily categorized or separated?  How do you think history and pop culture will define the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Add a Comment:
Joellll Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2012
I hate to post this, but I really want to tell you guys this is the 1,337th comment. 8)
katu01 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2012  Professional General Artist
Edward Kienholz, 1927-1994, might have been among the first of the Conceptualists conveying social statements in the form of life-sized, collage sculptures - primarily because his works were accompanied by his own commentary. Yes, "Back Seat Dodge '38" was an obvious statement with enough shock factor to unleash a media-driven moral frenzy. The reaction, a politically inflamed attempt to use funding to coerce the Los Angeles County Museum of Art into removing Kienholz's work managed instead to catapult him to fame.

But Kienholz is hardly the first, for there was early Egyptian art (~1,200 BC) that today would be considered pornographic and a "clear sign" that their society was in "decline". Those early concept pieces depicted the ruling class in compromising situations with common people and may have expressed contempt too risky to speak. Even Michael Angelo managed to paint the faces of bishops, cardinals, and governors he disliked on the wrong side of the River Styx. The point is that art may express a message as current today as it did in ancient times when putting sentiment in words was suicide. If art manages to express a revelation or commonly-held viewpoint, it doesn't have to be a Vermeer masterpiece to achieve success, but the Vermeer masterpiece will be desirable for its beauty long after the social commentary loses all meaning.

No matter the method by which a concept is conveyed, whether play, opera, painting, diorama, movie, public demonstration, or narration, it boils down to this: quality endures. I'd rather have physics taught to me by Dr. Jacob Bronowski than George W. Bush. As for the Occupy Wall Street "play", media coverage has been as hostile as it was toward Edward Kienholz, so the hope is that OWS will achieve similar successes.
techgnotic Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2012
Just caught the Kienholz "Five Car Stud" installment at MOCA this weekend. The juxtaposition of the "American Dream" buggies with the sort of racist atrocity sometimes underlying that mythologized "Happy Days" period is quite powerful, even if the quality of the art itself is more provocative than meritorious. But then, perhaps Kienholz would judge his success not in media reviews but, like OWS, in how much awareness and social dialogue, i.e., how much of a positive "event" his statement aroused around an issue of injustice, he managed to create. And of course I absolutely agree with you: quality is what endures long after the immediate "social context" has been reduced to a footnote. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
BigA-nt Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very interesting article - and I do agree with a lot of it. I believe, for example, that art is in everything. It's just a matter, sometimes, of the artist recognising it and then displaying it. I see some artwork and the concept jumps out at me and tells me instantly what its about. I see other artwork and it means nothing to me so I have to read the artists interpretation of what it is, in order to understand it.
I do also believe, however, that the quality of the artwork makes a difference to the concept. Even if its something simple like gluing plates to walls. They have to be glued in a way which is significant. Otherwise the concept doesn't come from the artwork, it comes out of the observer and into the artwork.
Possibly, the combination of strong concepts and excellent artwork makes for the best art.
dw817 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I have a question. I'm seeing quite a bit of negativity towards, "Conceptual Art."

Can someone define what this is and why it is so often thought of in negative terms ?
mariosilvaartdesign Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Narrow view of an ambiguous term
dw817 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
How so ?
mariosilvaartdesign Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Art definitions are by definition (pun intended) ambiguous and ever changing.

Some people can cope with change or see opposite opinions (to their own) as valuable and necessary. Others rather not face the unknown or get out of their comfort zone, nor question their self established limits.

Therefore they defend their limits out of fear, expressed in their negativity against anything that they cannot grasp (ie don't like,don't get, hate). I rather start with the assumption that I have limits, I don't grasp anything fully and i don't hold any keys... maybe when i die i can see in absolutes. For now i just hold some arguments that may and will be changed by some better one.
dw817 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Huum ... Well, maybe I will always feel -jealous- of others who toss are out in minutes and then everyone critiques on the depth of it for years to come.

Perhaps that is not a solely shared feeling ?

And yet at the same time, like when I came across a house that was entirely bedecked and decorated outside in beer cans, strings and strings of them from corner to corner of the house and a big sign in the middle that said, "Rehab is for quitters."

I thought that in itself was an excellent if not humorous expression of art, and there was the time and effort involved in stringing all the cans together, clearly days if not weeks of work from the depth and detail that I saw.
mariosilvaartdesign Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
If an artist can focus in the joy of the moment of creation, anything else becomes quite secondary if not completely meaningless.
Add a Comment: