Conceptualism Part II

Christine Alfery

Posted on March 28 2022

Conceptualism Part II

Featured image: Clusters

Part II – The Shift In How Conceptualism is understood.

The concept of conceptualism in art changed during DuChamp's time. While DuChamp was touting his objectivism and freedom, abstract expressionists were also working with the “idea,” the “concept” of art. Their claim was that art came from the artist and was filled with expressive emotion, conceptualism as the immediate reaction, idea, to a sensation that emerged in an object that the artist was creating. Freedom was immediate and visual. Jackson Pollock's work was an excellent example of this theory of art. As was the works of Joan Miro, Willem de Kooning, Kandinsky, and Rothko. The objects these artist created came from their own unique and individualize self. Whereas the art objects that Duchamp’s theory of art included were not created by the artist. The objects merely represented the idea of artists. The process of creating and discovering was removed from the definition of what art was. DuChamp's pathway eventually removed all the value of art from the object and anybody and anything could be called art. There was no need to create or discover something new or to remix ideas and have them grow and change.Everything art needed was already there in our culture, we just needed to call it art and it would become art. Duchamp’s definition of art began in the 1960’s and has been a constant in how art has been understood until today.


Conceptualism's journey in the theory of art is beginning to shift today and again morphing into something else in how art is understood. Duchamp’s, postmodernism period, shifted the Impressionists, individualized, independent work, where freedom existed and choice prevailed, to a more enslaved art object, one that was governed not by ideas, as DuChamp wanted but by readymade objects. Art became more enslaved to the object rather than free from the object.


While, Duchamp was right, idea and concept are important. It is, like he believed, where freedom is. But it is also where independence exists. It is also where individualization exists. It is where uniqueness is born. An artist can never be free if they don’t create the actual object that represents their independent, individualized idea. If the object that represents their idea is something from culture, or social popularism, the artist has lost control of their idea and the idea is governed by another. The object is important in the definition of what art is. And, the object needs to be something the artist created.


Today the path of conceptualism in a work of art still should be the artist's idea, as should the object that represents that idea also be created by the artist. The artist should have full control of how their work and their ideas are governed and represented. Then, art once again will return to being the unique, the individualized, the independent ideas of the artist. Discovery and exploration again returned to the process of creating art. The idea of creating is returning. There are just a few artists on this pathway, but those who are recognize where their freedom lies, and were the freedom of their ideas and their work lies.

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