Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

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Hereandnow
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Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Hereandnow » July 17th, 2017, 6:42 pm

Conceptual artists put their ideas in play. It's not like the study of art history, the analyses involved; that is, it's not like a study of what goes into Van Gogh's so called postimpressionism, and why the "post" is there; nor is it the study of things like Manet's risque depictions of women and prostitutes. It's not analysis. It is something completely different: the concept IS the art; it is embedded in the work. Degas didn't have to explain himself (notwithstanding whether he did or not) since the proof was in the pudding. Analysis came afterward. Conceptual art has its analysis prior to the work and is part of it, as if you have to be interpretatively equipped to "get it". Once you know, you have an understanding of the context, artist's intentions, or the possible associated ideas, theory, and so forth, you can access its value, meaning, and so on.

So what is wrong with conceptual art, as art? For one thing, if it's a concept, then it belongs to the world of ideas, not art. An explanation is not a work of art. And the less there is a taking up of a physical medium and the more there is a thesis, the less it is art, and the more it is theory and idea. For another, it contributes to a trivialization of art as so much that is produced as conceptual is, as far as the physical medium goes, foolish or vacuous. One finds one's self saying, " Well, why didn't the artist just say as much? Why go through the bother with a physical medium if all along, it was just a thesis?"

Arthur Danto writes in The Art World that art lies in the interpretation. Oh look, it's a cloud; no, it's a camel. The camel side of this illustrates the essence of art. If this is true, and there is interpretation at the heart of all of art, what does this say about a negative criticism of conceptual art like mine?

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Spraticus » July 22nd, 2017, 12:56 pm

Hereandnow wrote:Conceptual artists put their ideas in play. It's not like the study of art history, the analyses involved; that is, it's not like a study of what goes into Van Gogh's so called postimpressionism, and why the "post" is there; nor is it the study of things like Manet's risque depictions of women and prostitutes. It's not analysis. It is something completely different: the concept IS the art; it is embedded in the work. Degas didn't have to explain himself (notwithstanding whether he did or not) since the proof was in the pudding. Analysis came afterward. Conceptual art has its analysis prior to the work and is part of it, as if you have to be interpretatively equipped to "get it". Once you know, you have an understanding of the context, artist's intentions, or the possible associated ideas, theory, and so forth, you can access its value, meaning, and so on.

So what is wrong with conceptual art, as art? For one thing, if it's a concept, then it belongs to the world of ideas, not art. An explanation is not a work of art. And the less there is a taking up of a physical medium and the more there is a thesis, the less it is art, and the more it is theory and idea. For another, it contributes to a trivialization of art as so much that is produced as conceptual is, as far as the physical medium goes, foolish or vacuous. One finds one's self saying, " Well, why didn't the artist just say as much? Why go through the bother with a physical medium if all along, it was just a thesis?"

Arthur Danto writes in The Art World that art lies in the interpretation. Oh look, it's a cloud; no, it's a camel. The camel side of this illustrates the essence of art. If this is true, and there is interpretation at the heart of all of art, what does this say about a negative criticism of conceptual art like mine?
I sympathise greatly with this but I do have quibbles.

One major problem is in the definition of Conceptual Art. There is a sense in which all art is conceptual but I suspect that you don't mean it that way; you intend the psuedo-modern movement that self-identifies as "Conceptual Art." Much that is produced under that banner is indeed vacuous and would not be taking up gallery space without the label. I have seen shows where everyone entering just passed rapidly through the gallery and walked out again because there was nothing there of any interest. Often these shows are subsidised by some patron, because there is nothing to buy to support the gallery or the producer. But other artists under this banner, such as Ai Wei Wei, produce work of great profundity and aesthetic value. The problem here is that his work would qualify as art under any name. (I don't like all of his work.) The conceptual label is superfluous.

There is also the problem that other art, produced within other schools of thought, would easily qualify as conceptual. Much renaissance art is so full of symbolism that the real meaning requires a high degree of study and knowledge. People think they understand it because they recognise the objects and appreciate the technical skill, but in fact they are missing the conceptual message completely.

These issues aside, I agree completely that a row of rough handwritten notes pinned to a wall is maybe subject matter for a literature seminar and not "Art" in the visual sense. Its only value lies in the ideas contained in the words, which could as easily be spoken. There is no significance in the fact that you need eyes to see them; somebody could read them to you.

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Hereandnow » July 23rd, 2017, 1:37 pm

Spraticus:
But other artists under this banner, such as Ai Wei Wei, produce work of great profundity and aesthetic value.
Interesting to note that Ai Wei Wei's art is explicitly aesthetic, meaning it has, if you will, "significant form." Is it really what we want in art is beautiful form, and that's that? I don't think so, but art without this seems to beg the question, how is this art, this pile of rubbish, this simple light bulb in a drearily lit room, this "can of human s**t". I know we have a very hard time reducing art to one thing or another. Perhaps the best we can do is not to eliminate thought from the artwork "as a component part" but to realize their is an poorly conceived line drawn that separates art from idea especially as art continues to redefine itself. There are those who think the concept of conceptual art has a secure and valid place.

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 20th, 2017, 6:14 am

Hereandnow wrote:
July 23rd, 2017, 1:37 pm
Interesting to note that Ai Wei Wei's art is explicitly aesthetic, meaning it has, if you will, "significant form." Is it really what we want in art is beautiful form, and that's that? I don't think so, but art without this seems to beg the question, how is this art, this pile of rubbish, this simple light bulb in a drearily lit room, this "can of human s**t". I know we have a very hard time reducing art to one thing or another. Perhaps the best we can do is not to eliminate thought from the artwork "as a component part" but to realize their is an poorly conceived line drawn that separates art from idea especially as art continues to redefine itself. There are those who think the concept of conceptual art has a secure and valid place.
Conceptual art usually results in an object or drawing which can be displayed in a gallery. But anyway, what are you trying to accomplish? You want to take conceptual art out of the gallery, or say that the gallery is engaging in literature, not art, and so should call itself a literature gallery?

All art is conceptual to some extent, it doesn't seem so unusual that some artists would try to isolate this aspect, and still call it art. They are artists after all.

I can remember the time and place where I first saw Yoko Ono's little Grapefruit book (almost 40 years ago). It's a book of instructions, you make the art yourself, or try to imagine how it could be made. I was riveted. Truthfully, it changed my life, and it was art, no mistaking.
fair to say

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Hereandnow » December 20th, 2017, 2:04 pm

3uGH7D4MLj:
Conceptual art usually results in an object or drawing which can be displayed in a gallery. But anyway, what are you trying to accomplish? You want to take conceptual art out of the gallery, or say that the gallery is engaging in literature, not art, and so should call itself a literature gallery?

All art is conceptual to some extent, it doesn't seem so unusual that some artists would try to isolate this aspect, and still call it art. They are artists after all.

I can remember the time and place where I first saw Yoko Ono's little Grapefruit book (almost 40 years ago). It's a book of instructions, you make the art yourself, or try to imagine how it could be made. I was riveted. Truthfully, it changed my life, and it was art, no mistaking.
It's that I have an ax to grind: First, if what you are selling (presenting, that is. The commercialization of art is another ax altogether) is mostly idea, then the physical work itself almost becomes incidental. I'm not referring to art that needs explanation or orientation. As you say, all art is like this. You won't understand even Monet, or some impressionist, truly until you've gone into it, thought about the intent, the background, and so on. So true pf cubism, abstract expressionism and others. But then, with Monet, the beauty, the "form" dominates. But conceptual art,like Josef Kosuth's, forget it: I have to be told, and the telling IS the art.
I'm not saying it is not art, the putting of a shoe in a box and then on to the exhibition hall. But it is nominally art. Best to write a thesis, then point to a shoe, and say, "I'm talking about that." Or, in the thesis recommend the reader look at any available shoe. That would be as good as taking up space in an exhibition hall.

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 20th, 2017, 7:51 pm

I looked up Joseph Kosuth, looks like art to me -- different strokes I guess.
fair to say

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Spraticus » December 21st, 2017, 6:13 pm

I looked him up too. It's sort of art, but a bit trivial, shallow, repetitive and adds very little to my life.

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 21st, 2017, 7:02 pm

Spraticus wrote:
December 21st, 2017, 6:13 pm
I looked him up too. It's sort of art, but a bit trivial, shallow, repetitive and adds very little to my life.
This is where I invoke my "art is simply art" idea. Judgement of art shouldn't get mixed up with the definition of art. If you don't like some kind of art, ok. Me too. But that doesn't mean that it's not art.

Conceptual Art is Marcel Duchamp, Alan Kaprow, John Cage, Yoko Ono and the Fluxus people, Bill Higgins, Sol Lewitt, Christo, Joseph Beuys, Jenny Holzer, Vito Acconci, Marina Abromowicz, Robt Rauschenberg, etc., etc. It's a fairly important art movement. Feel free to take a pass, but some of us are moved by it.
fair to say

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Gertie » December 21st, 2017, 7:45 pm

I'm with 3euGH (if I may call you that for short ;) )

HAN -

''So what is wrong with conceptual art, as art? For one thing, if it's a concept, then it belongs to the world of ideas, not art. An explanation is not a work of art. And the less there is a taking up of a physical medium and the more there is a thesis, the less it is art, and the more it is theory and idea. For another, it contributes to a trivialization of art as so much that is produced as conceptual is, as far as the physical medium goes, foolish or vacuous. One finds one's self saying, " Well, why didn't the artist just say as much? Why go through the bother with a physical medium if all along, it was just a thesis?"

This might be how you feel about it, but others get something more out of ideas or emotions being presented in new ways, and ways which might allow you to bring more of your own experience, thoughts and emotions (not always easily spoken) to a piece. And overall I'd rather art was allowed to push boundaries (as it always has), than miss out by constricting it.



''this simple light bulb in a drearily lit room''

True story - I went to see that (I like Creed), but there was an 'Out of Order' sign on the door! Still don't know if it was a deliberate joke, but it made me happy

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Hereandnow » December 21st, 2017, 10:17 pm

Actually I really don't take a pass on it nor do I fail to appreciate it. The fact is, when the artists pointed out above that might be called conceptual, and I reviewed what they have done, I see I am not taking issue with them at all. Others may call them conceptual artists, but not me. Conceptual art is a concept, hence the name. Some more than others, granted. But, to put in Clive Bell's language, if the significant form issues mostly from a thesis, then, as I said, write an essay.

The simple light bulb in a drearily lit room is, pardon me for saying so Gertie, without artistic merit altogether. It may be amusing to laugh at this curious thing and the nerve to exhibit it impresses (it won, I heard, a prize in England, I think. It was the audacity of presenting it that won over the judges. Not a good standard for measuring artistic merit, i think, especially when you think of the others who lost who weren't so nervy. Art needs to be better than this). I guess i look at such a thing, stand in it, and think, "What is this? It is someone challenging the artworld. I'd rather read about it. Standing here is not an experience in art any more than standing on your desk in algebra class to protest formal education is an experience in learning algebra.

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Greta » December 21st, 2017, 10:57 pm

Aesthetics and abstract content need not be separate. Some art will focus very much on one or the other, other art leans one way or another.

The OP seems to take issue with art that disregards visceral appeal in order to make a point. He's not alone in saying "that's not art!" but I beg to differ. It might not be good art, but it's art if made with that intent. For me it depends on the point being made, and how well it's made.

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Gertie » December 21st, 2017, 11:45 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
December 21st, 2017, 10:17 pm
Actually I really don't take a pass on it nor do I fail to appreciate it. The fact is, when the artists pointed out above that might be called conceptual, and I reviewed what they have done, I see I am not taking issue with them at all. Others may call them conceptual artists, but not me. Conceptual art is a concept, hence the name. Some more than others, granted. But, to put in Clive Bell's language, if the significant form issues mostly from a thesis, then, as I said, write an essay.

The simple light bulb in a drearily lit room is, pardon me for saying so Gertie, without artistic merit altogether. It may be amusing to laugh at this curious thing and the nerve to exhibit it impresses (it won, I heard, a prize in England, I think. It was the audacity of presenting it that won over the judges. Not a good standard for measuring artistic merit, i think, especially when you think of the others who lost who weren't so nervy. Art needs to be better than this). I guess i look at such a thing, stand in it, and think, "What is this? It is someone challenging the artworld. I'd rather read about it. Standing here is not an experience in art any more than standing on your desk in algebra class to protest formal education is an experience in learning algebra.
What made me laugh was the Out of Order sign, I was imagining popped light bulbs lol. But Creed is an artist with a sense of humour, and often makes me smile.

Yes it won the Turner Prize, which is much ridiculed, and that one in partic, but takes account of an artist's overall body of work. I don't know what exactly Creed was hoping to convey with it, but for me it fits with a theme I see in his work of getting down the essentialness of things, of being even. In a way which happens to resonate with me. And I appreciate his cheeky lightness of touch in approaching such ideas and what they mean to us. He sort of explains it here, some people think it's rubbish, or pretentious ********, I think it's funny and artful and endearingly human. Art can reach those parts which a thesis can't, stimulate other parts of the brain if you like, to provide a different or richer communication of experience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOTCJPcpQac

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 22nd, 2017, 5:16 am

Hereandnow wrote:
December 21st, 2017, 10:17 pm
Actually I really don't take a pass on it nor do I fail to appreciate it. The fact is, when the artists pointed out above that might be called conceptual, and I reviewed what they have done, I see I am not taking issue with them at all. Others may call them conceptual artists, but not me. Conceptual art is a concept, hence the name. Some more than others, granted. But, to put in Clive Bell's language, if the significant form issues mostly from a thesis, then, as I said, write an essay.
ok, so conceptual art is a concept, hence the name (!?). Does this oxymoronic concept exist only in your imagination or are there real world examples?
fair to say

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 22nd, 2017, 5:21 am

Greta wrote:
December 21st, 2017, 10:57 pm
The OP seems to take issue with art that disregards visceral appeal in order to make a point.
C'mon Greta, conceptual art can have tons of visceral appeal.
fair to say

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Re: Conceptual art: an oxymoron?

Post by Hereandnow » December 22nd, 2017, 10:45 am

No 3uGH7D4MLj. Gerti's ''this simple light bulb in a drearily lit room'' is a perfect example.

I am with, I think it was Danto, whom I recall reading, and presenting the idea that indeed, art is in the head. I look at a cloud as a cloud, then contextualize it as such. But then someone says,look, it's a camel, this is essentially an art-making perceptual act. My issue begins where the line between art and non-art gets erased. Ideas are in the head, too; that doesn't make them art (unless it's poetry or prose).

It really is this freedom to redefine art that has gotten out of hand. I remember in an art history course there was this series of photographed boots taken in various states, here in New Mexico, there in Connecticut, and that was it. It was a travel log in boot pictures, which was fine, quaint, but not art, or, not art in a way that doesn't push the meaning of art toward the trivial and silly.

Oh well, it'a slippery slope here. Dadaists would be proud. But for me, I look at a Van Gogh (and don't get me wrong, a lot of recent art, too. Obviously; though there does seem to be a kitsch going around) I am swept away. I don't know about the viscera, Greta, but it is the aesthetic that concerns me.

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