To Dream, to Collect

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To better understand the latest developments concerning the Conceptual Art, it's necessary to understand where and when this current develops, as well as to know the names of its greatest exponents. We are talking about a new form of contemporary art avant-garde, born in the Sixties, whose purpose (in the present as in the past) is to reach an intellectual and theoretical realization, by rejecting the object and enhancing the process. 

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The term was first used by Sol Lewitt in 1967 during Art-forum (New York) in a text titled ''Paragraph on Conceptual Art", but it is in 1961 when Henry Flynt used the expression ''concept art'' for essays published later in Anthology (1963), works in which he used linguistic and mathematical concepts. Following the historical definition of Lipari and Chandler, Conceptual Art seeks to emphasize a "dematerialization" of art, that is recognized in the gradual disappearance of the object in favour of the idea and concept of ephemeral material and without consistency. The operational assumption of Conceptual Art is to privilege the philosophical and cognitive process on the materialist operation and on the subjectivism of the artist,  so is in this sense that forms become irrelevant and intrinsically equal.


Sol LeWitt, Series-A, 1967. 


Artist could use any kind of shapes, from physical reality to written and spoken word but by trying to exalt the concept. By adopting the concept or idea as an operational model, Conceptual Art rejects any expressionism of the materials and actions of the individual "artist". The first names that come to mind as great explorers of this genres are Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, all of them the first representative core of the events organized by Seth Siegelaub. By then the group grew up with the participation of Hanne Darboven, On Kawara, Jan Dibbets, Vincenzo Agnetti, Stanley Brown, Victor Burgin, Ian Wilson, Hamish Fulton and David Tremlett.


Cappella Relais San Maurizio Wall Drawing David Tremlett. Photo Credits Luisa Porta. Courtesy Artribune


An attitude, in a radical sense of Conceptual Art, was represented by the group Art & Language, which rejects the use of the artistic language in a dematerializing and ephemeral sense, to propose a scientific approach to the use of concept and politics in art. The reduction to a pure concept, first of all, abandons the aesthetics and abolishes any interest in the object or in the documentation by adopting an exclusive use of language according to a logic that goes back to the last theorizations of the Anglo-Saxon linguists, from Wittgenstein to Moore, then move on Marx and Lenin thesis. The greatest exponent of this current was certainly Joseph Kosuth, considered the most extreme in offering problematic directives on the identity of the "art" context. His production, from 1965 to present, could demonstrate how his attention into the use and function comes to cancel the "form of presentation" of the work.


Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs, 1965. Courtesy MoMA


His discussion on the nature of art proceeds in fact by groups of meaning and not by following taste sensitive reaction. That groups of meaning, translated into investigations, could highlight all the complex properties of the relationship between language and art. The definitions concerning his "First Investigations" initially targeted concepts links to the matter such as "water" or "air" that offer themselves as abstractions of a particular entity, only devoted to forms and colours. Later most of the definitions concern abstract themes like "meaning", "empty", "time", "universal", "object". In other words, they become abstractions of abstractions.

Cover image: On Kawara MAR. 18, 1970 “Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Chief of State of Cambodia, was overthrown today in his absence, the Pnompenh radio announced.” New York. Courtesy Guggenheim


Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.


Latest boundaries of Conceptual art: Patrizia Novello-Hiva Alizadeh-Sara Chang Yan


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