conceptual / theme
Conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Many of the works of the artist Sol LeWitt may be constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions. This method was fundamental to LeWitt's definition of Conceptual art, one of the first to appear in print:
â€œ 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. â€“ Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art", Artforum, June 1967. â€
For the layman, this quotation highlights a key difference between a conceptualist installation and a traditional work of art - that the conceptualist's work may require little or no physical craftsmanship in its execution, whereas traditional art is distinguished by requiring physical skill and the making of aesthetic choices. As Tony Godfrey has put it, after Joseph Kosuth's definition of art, conceptual art is an art which questions the very nature of what is understood as art.
The inception of the term in the 1960s referred to a strict and focused practice of idea-based art that often defied traditional visual criteria associated with the visual arts in its presentation as text. However, through its association with the Young British Artists and the Turner Prize during the 1990s, its popular usage, particularly in the UK, developed as a synonym for all contemporary art that does not practise the traditional skills of painting and sculpture. To clarify this popular confusion, it might be said that one of the reasons why the term conceptual art has come to be associated with various contemporary practices far removed from the aims and formal properties it was originally intended to define might be understood as a problem in defining the term itself. As the artist Mel Bochner suggested as early as 1970, in explaining why he does not like the epithet "conceptual", it is not always entirely clear what "concept" ultimately refers to, and it runs the risk of being confused with "intention." Thus, in describing or defining a work of art as conceptual it is important not to confuse what is referred to as "conceptual" with an artist's "intention."
Themes represent basic categories of thought, emotion, or value. While our assignment of themes may at times seem arbitrary or whimsical, they serve to link together artists and movements along non- hierarchial pathways. Follow the themes to look for new disciplines that share qualities with those you already like, or to open up new worlds of Art and Culture.