Analysis of the Underpinnings of the Conceptual Art Movement
The Conceptual Art Movement challenged prevalent notions of what art should be as exemplified by artists including Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse as well as Richard Irving, and contemporary Conceptual artist Richard Este discussed in this academic evaluation. Conceptual artists originally rebuffed the name given the body of heterogeneous groupings of their work depicting a wide variety of types and styles of art (Green 200l). By 1970, the Conceptual Art Movement rejection of traditional definitions of art set their work apart internationally. Still controversial in the 21st century, this document provides an analysis of the underpinnings of the Conceptual Art Movement.
Though imbued with international roots, the Conceptual Art Movement nonetheless maintains a sufficient analysis gap in the existing art literature. In addition, after over a century it remains securely unacknowledged within some art circles today. The historical situation of this faction of the avant-garde art movement, evolved from the end of the 19th and into the 20th century. From the onset, art historians' understanding of the unpredictability of this artistic category spanning a range of extremely diverse work proved somewhat slow comprehending the sheer quantity, quality, quantity, incomparable diversity of Conceptual Art produced outside New York (Green 2001). Further, according to Green, only a few art analyst writers of the time, chose providing a chronicle of this work as set apart in the art world as again, exemplified by Matisse's minimalist line drawings and paintings (2001) as very different work made outside the standard conceptual/minimalist canon "(27).
With the steady intellectual evolution of the movement's underpinnings, the Conceptual Art form philosophically, socially, and politically-led intentions replaced customary visual art with some explaining it challenged the historically redundancy of the world's great paintings. Some among the movement continue debating how the late modernist works proved not only the first of the new ideas about what art expresses but did so with more honesty than any time prior to this era. Others contend, the antagonistic framework of this art form created by the minimalists, again such as Matisse, then emerged, and thus, supplanted by proponents established art considered conceptual (Green 2001). The best way to understand this ideology means investigating the varieties of the movement's artistic expression beginning with Dadaism.
Ridding the dominant social consensus of the middle class mentality of convention, social consensus, agreement, power structures, and hierarchies, Dadaism artistic implications meant to challenge and change the world through art. This artistic technique remains far-reaching and revolutionary in the 21st century. Changing the language of perception entrenched in the bourgeois mindset of world within language continues sustaining this art form (Schaffner 2006).
Language describing perception of the world therefore, carry on through its coded linguistic ideologies representing the dominant order of society. As recent as the 1980s literature espoused the continuous existence of language governing and perpetuating the logos and ideologies of the Western dominant order of society with this linguistic code of perception of the world as it should be (Schaffner 2006). " the code itself maintains, reproduces and enforces social order and has influenced and now dominates every aspect of it – and consequently, only an attack upon the code, upon the internal structure and organisation of the sign system of usage, can bring about change" (Schaffner 119). [Sic] Clearly, representative of this genre of the Conceptual Art form is the vision of Marcel Duchamp (Housefield 2002; Rosenthal 2014).
Each new generation of art enthusiasts rediscovers Marcel Duchamp contribution to the Dada/Conceptual Art Movement. Today, his art takes on new generations of audiences, challenging the perception of the established order of the Western world's ideologies of art with his dark humor (and some view as irreverence of the revered) creative style providing the onlooker a new idea about how the world visually exists (Housefield 2002; Rosenthal 2014). His work connects to the same thing as a person typically never arising in the middle of the night, finding the way things look during the day take on an entirely new conceptual reality.
Taking an inexpensive postcard depicting the image of the painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo d' Vinci, Duchamp's work entitled "L.H.O.O.Q." changes the accepted linguistic view of the Mona Lisa as art by penciling a goatee on the hauntingly beautiful female Renaissance face. His intention according to Rosenthal remains putting, "art back in the service of the mind" (2011) and not in the service of the dominant society's perception of art. It is Duchamp's Dadaist approach to breaking down existing perceptions that ignites the viewer participation in the 20th century then and now, the 21st century experience of a different language expressing art in a modern world (Housefield 2002; Hopkins 1998). Duchamp creates an amalgamation of abstract thought and a spirit of adventure with "L.H.O.O.Q" revealing the artist's technical intention for creating an intellectual reaction from the onlooker.
New philosophical ideologies emerged at the beginning of the 20th century through political publications on Marxism, religion, and a revival of spiritualism. Amid this, the avant-garde culture deliberated on the status of the naked ape called man. With intentional expression disposing previous ideologies of life, these new type thinkers artistic rebellion brought about Duchamp's creative expression resulting in the disfigurement of the Renaissance icon with the mustache on the Mona Lisa he now called "L.H.O.O.Q" (Rosenthal 2011).
Duchamp moved from the creative process of antithetical into skilled art. It was Duchamp's vision to set him, apart from the traditional artistic modes employed in creating paintings, by successfully seducing the onlooker with verbal witticism and irony without relying on aesthetic appeal or technical artistry. "The object became a work of art because the artist had decided it would be designated as such" (Rosenthal 2011). Consequently, no more so, then as much as, Pablo Picasso artistic vision and contribution also emerged.
A young Spanish artist appeared in 1938 with a revolutionary concept centered on a transformative creative vision introducing the world to a Conceptual Art form called cubism as part of the Surrealists' works. Picasso assembled objects in a certain manner visually and aesthetically changing them into other things when he photographed them. The creative force coming entirely from within the way Picasso saw these objects so that he captured this Cubist vision photographically without ever needing paint for manipulating and producing his mind's vision (Siraganian 2011).
Surrealists like Picasso centered their creative vision of the world as an abstract entity with shapes, colors, while imbuing them with new interpretations transforming the common objects of life effectively creating a different reality of the way of looking at life. Surrealism artistically expresses a social phenomenon where the spectator realizes art exists outside the temporal order of the real world. "Only Cubism, with its reliance on abstraction, occasionally receives a reprieve. When Picasso veers away from painting and ventures into creating paper constructions like Guitar (he) has come out of the canvas and has commenced to build up his shadows against reality" (Siraganian 60) taking the spectator into his/her own experience of time and away from the convention of the canvas. Moving into the late 1960s brings the world photorealism with a twist on the perception of what is real.
Typifying artists' experimentation with subject matters by the late 1960s, Richard Estes' work reflects spirited and fresh artistic techniques. The suffix "ism" added to the names of groups of like-minded artists such as Estes whose genre is photorealism paintings became a part of the Conceptual Art philosophy (Hubbard 2002; Marlborough Galleries 2014). Producing photographic quality paintings, Estes' works literally reflect the modern world's architectural edges, height, dimension, and lines emulating the cityscapes his paintings project. The surreal quality of his work exemplified in the glossy "Kentucky Fried Chicken" painting captures New York City's ability making a person experience the feeling of walking through deep canyons created by the towering skyscrapers formed between alleys and streets. Estes' photographs made into paintings shows how Estes' brush strokes entrap the "evanescent nature of reflections, which would change in part with the lighting of the day" (Peterson 2011)". The photorealism of his paintings evoke smells, textures, sound, and for some in an audience - memories. Memories sustain the creative intentions rushing forth from the canvases of Irving Norman's works.
Revealing the artist's memories of the horrors of the 20th century's two world wars, Norman's painting "War Wounded" takes the onlooker into the disturbing aspects of war as a kaleidoscope of colors screaming of life and death. His colors prove a rawness of technique makes Norman's painting a disquieting look at the inhumane hopelessness coming from the "War Wounded". "Norman may be the most important 'ignored' artist of the 20th century," (Parker 2014) writes. Norman's works remained hidden from the world at the time he produced them amid political repressiveness as a Polish Jew immigrant first the United States and then joining the Spanish Civil War defending the Republic against the Fascists. His paintings always intended making the world take ownership of its actions - he wanted to change the world.
Powerful, striking, intellectual, and visually rich, his paintings exemplified in "War Wounded" reveal an emotionally haunting, masterfully painted complex vision. Using large scale canvases, Norman's dramatic intention further explodes in detail and color with possibly hundreds of figures revealing vulnerability, cruelty, fragility, and both suffering and noble throes of the dance of humanity. "His art was suppressed because the postwar (WWII) modernist art establishment suppressed everything but Abstract Expressionism, and its sterile, flat-headed children, for more than half a century" (Parker 2014). Norman's intention in painting his memories of war focuses on bringing the viewer into the inhumanity of war with, "jarringly visceral images of pain and violence and with disconcerting reminders of the horrors of war, racism, poverty and inequality" (Parker 2014) as a specific statement of his perception of never envisioned on canvas before.
These examples ferreted out from the many examples of Conceptual Art then demands discourse of why it leaves so many viewing different types of works walking away scratching their heads. Does this lead this academic discourse to viewing Conceptual Art as an appreciative failure as some experts explain?
Typical public response to avant-garde works of art label it as incomprehensible with strong resistance and rejection. Debating the justification of this characteristic response remains secondary as those appreciating the particular excellence of this genre passionately defend ad repudiate this prejudiced filled review. Taking consideration positing how some art deserves recognition that it characteristically does not achieve, what ensues is explaining how this becomes an appreciative failure. "Conceptual Art is the poster child of appreciative failure" (Lopes 238). Conceptual Art as an appreciative failure therefore takes on some new ideas about the theories of art. In other words, what Conceptual Art does "not" do remains connected to how it typically leaves its audience including those educated in art, with confusion, dismissiveness, and frustration (Lopes 2007). The analysis injected here looks at the irony. In part, this very reaction from an intellectual point of view substantiates the intent of the Conceptual Artists' passion for making the audience respond in a different manner than the evocations traditional art pulls from the onlooker with the subsequent "oh and awe". When artistic revelations make the onlooker question what they view perhaps this moment is the first time the individual has a genuine and singularly personal thought of his or her own without the propaganda of Western culture's position. This takes the analysis into the next topic of the subject – centered on Conceptual Art as an appreciated failure.
An entry found in the Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Art explains with a contemptuous approach that "Conceptual Artists deliberately render their productions uninteresting, commonplace, or trivial from a visual point of view" (Osborne 1981: 122–3 qtd. by Lopes 238). In light of this harsh review, emerges the concept of the appreciative failure view of Conceptual Art. While minimalism and abstract expressionism draws on the viewer's appreciation from the perspective "sensory immersion, later art, including Conceptual Art, can be appreciated only by theorizing" (Lopes 239). Again, as this statement clearly espouses. The intention of Conceptual Art remains focused on the audience having an intellectual response to the works so they question the way society trained they look at the world.
Simply put, Conceptual Art seems existing, in a gap. Where this rift places Conceptual Art status as an appreciative failure in the art world arises from theoretical underpinnings applied to visual art. Does this mean a new definition of art must fill the gap where Conceptual Art exists? "Can this understanding for a new definition then emerge as the 'new art hypothesis', the 'ontological hypothesis', and the 'art-form hypothesis'" (Lopes 239).
Cataloguing Conceptual Art as an appreciative failure means identifying the false judgments of those audiences requiring a traditional definition of art. The fact Conceptual Art as an entire movement "suffers appreciative failure, we must consult its founders' statements for an idea of what they hoped to achieve" (Lopes 240). Thus, remembering Conceptual Art remains intended as theoretical at all times further as, "making art that does not fit traditional definitions of art, especially aesthetic definitions and definitions that privilege the personal expression of the artist" (Lopes 240). Analytically, appreciatively, and intellectually Conceptual Art very probably exists as one of the most honest creative endeavors free from any of Western culture's brain washing ideologies.
Therefore, Conceptual Art documents ephemeral events, provides social interventions, and comprises readymade perceptions of a different reality thus, rendering any pieces representative of these "as counter-examples to traditional definitions of art" (Lopes 240). In other words, creating a new art hypothesis, applied to Conceptual Art means redefining the reality of art compelling society revise by definition what fails reflecting an autonomous reality of art (Lopes 240). Traditional art has no autonomy. It stands as the historical reflection of Western culture's evolution socially, politically, religiously, and ideologically.
Taking Duchamp's "L.H.O.O.Q." as an example of a readymade aspect of Conceptual Art therefore according to the standard view of art theory as the clearly non-aesthetic nature of a urinal accepted as art even though it looks basically, the same as the other urinal. "The second urinal cannot be art just because of its intrinsic, perceptible properties, which it shares with its artless counterpart" (Lopes 241). Therefore, what makes the second urinal considered art remains its connection "to an art context comprising creative or interpretive practices or a body of pre-existing art (or something along these lines)" (Lopes 241). Regardless, this attempt still fails defining art. "Pouring asphalt down a hill, shaking hands with trash collectors, painting today's date—these can be art, given the right context" (Lopes 241). Contextually, Conceptual Art resembles and anticipates philosophy of art. Analytically, the evolution of art from the perspective of Conceptual Art proves the most fundamentally free form of expression that historically or contemporarily exists without the imposition of the social, political, religious, or ideological confines of art ever experienced.
The appreciative failure of Conceptual Art derives from "the inability of its consumers to see beyond traditional definitions of art" (Lopes 241. In other words, appreciating Conceptual Art requires viewing it as not existing in a gap but rather, viewing it as "occupying hitherto unknown regions of the extension of 'art'"(Lopes 241) requiring relinquishing the traditional, ideological, commitment of society to the definitions of art. It is this commitment to specific definitions of art that also raises irony connected with the existence of "plenty of evidence that we are not committed to traditional definitions of art" (Lopes 241) and theoretically the appreciative failure of Conceptual Art continues evolving.
In conclusion, this analysis of the underpinnings of the Conceptual Art Movement academic investigated works of Duchamp, Picasso, Matisse, Estes, and Norman as Conceptual Art Movement artists reveals that rather than existing in a gap as an appreciated failure, the evolution of this genre inhabits the domain of yet undiscovered expressions of the human soul in art form. Over the century since Conceptual Art emerged, each ensuing generation's exposure to this art form faces the concept that reality no longer remains so certain a concept.
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