Examining The Concept Of Conceptualism Art Essay


Art throughout time has always been about trying to express a feeling or a look in a way that words cannot describe. Conceptual art focuses on this in a way that it precedes over traditional aesthetic and material concerns.

"In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."

-Sol LeWitt

Sol Lewitt. A great contributor to conceptual art, and minimalism alike. LeWitt was born in Hartford, Connecticut to a family of Jewish immigrants from Russia, who after receiving a bachelor of fine arts in 1949 decided to move to America in the 1950's to further pursue his dreams of creating paintings and 'sculpture -biography.yourdictionary.com/sol-le-witt

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Splotch #15, 2005

Sol LeWitt (American, b. 1928)

Acrylic on fibreglass; 12 ft. x 8 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 8 in. (365.8 x 254 x 203.2 cm)

"I decided I would make colour or form recede and proceed in a three-dimensional way." Lewitt once said in a generalized approach to his work. And it's exactly what he did in a line of work called 'splotch'. Pictured is splotch 15#, we see a series of coloured peaks, all which seem to be drawn upwards as though they are attracted to something almost magnetically. The peaks all break off at separate points, and are all in a mixed variation of vivid colours. The colours are all distinctly separate with no amount of mixing as to create gradients.

The splotch series were purposefully created to be set against the New York City skyline. With the sculptures physical likeness to a tall building, Lewitt could have possibly set out to represent a building through this abstract and minimalistic approach. From a top down view the shapes form a network, possibly representing the network of a city. 2000-2010 the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lewitt's concept behind this piece was perfect visual execution. With the amount of planning that went into this piece compared to the final result I believe this series was successful.

This leads me onto my next artist, Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp was a French/American artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Duchamp is particularly famous for 'Readymades'. Readymades are ordinary manufactured objects that the artist selects and modifies, as an antidote to what he called "retinal art", a piece that's appeal is exclusively to the eye rather than the mind. By simply choosing the object (or objects) and repositioning or joining, tilting and signing it, the object became art. As the process involved the least amount of interaction between artist and art, it represented the most extreme form of minimalism up to that time. -http://www.enotes.com/topic/Readymades_of_Marcel_uchamp (from various sources)

'Fountain' By Marcel Duchamp 1917

Paint on urinal

One of Duchamp's most famous readymades is 'fountain'. Fountain in this case was a urinal. Many theories go out as to what a readymade really is. Marcel himself was not really quite sure, as any good artist, his ideas would forever change on subject; but it is said that Duchamp set a time in a year that whatever he was doing he would take one relevant object and display it as art; fountain being the product of just that. - The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism © 1983. To me personally, Fountain is perhaps the most well known because the symbolic meaning of the toilet takes the conceptual challenge posed by the readymades to their most visceral extreme, in that it makes no sense whatsoever and it is entirely up to the viewer to decide what it really means to them. It has been described as "the veiled head of a classic Renaissance Madonna, or a seated Buddha or, perhaps more to the point, one of BrâncuÅŸi's polished erotic forms." - Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography,

For a piece that causes the amount of confliction in the art world that this does, and by the thought provoking nature of it, I believe that this piece delves deep into the meaning of conceptualism and is successful at portraying an idea to an audience.

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From someone breaking away from conformity to someone breaking away from reality comes Chuck Close. Close, who has been painting portraits passionately since the late 1960s is an American painter and photographer who achieved fame as a photorealist, through his incredibly large portraits, some reaching larger than 2 metres long. More than just a painter, photographer, and printmaker, Chuck Close is an abstract expressionist, who, in his words, builds "painting experiences for the viewer." - 2007-2010 (Michael Arnold Art)

On December 7, 1988, after feeling a strange pain in his chest whilst at a ceremony honouring local artists in New York City; Concerned, Close made his way across the street to Beth Israel Medical Centre where he suffered a seizure which left him paralysed from the neck down. For months, Close was in rehab strengthening his muscles; but never fully recovered his strength; He has relied on a wheelchair since.

However, Close continued to paint with a brush strapped onto his wrist with tape, creating large portraits in low-resolution grid squares with the aid of an assistant.

Self Portrait 3 Woodcut, 2002

Paint on Canvas

The Process that Close goes through to achieve his pieces is particular and refined to achieve a similar look each time. Starting with a photograph, the picture is separated into diagonal blocks then which each have their own individual implied tonal hue, and put back together in such a way that these blocks merge together to create one, toned picture at a distance, much like pixels on a computer screen.

Through this piece I see his simplified life, represented directly through the adapted style, from an intricate, detailed masterpiece, to something on the opposite end of the scale, but genius nonetheless. In this piece what I see is an adaption, not just to a style, but to a man's life. Here we have a world renowned photorealistic, who, through a tragedy no one expected, had to move forward, not by choice, but by force, which is why I believe this piece achieves the position of conceptualism.

Through studying and analysing conceptualism, I have found an insightful connection to the artists, both through the message they are trying to portray, and the experiences each have gone through to ground with their styles. Each style is unique in both history and look, but each take a step further into the meaning of visual art, creating emotions through relation to the audience.