You have most likely heard this charge before, "Conceptual art is not art!"- now I ask you, if it is not art- what is it? How should we define it? Why can't it be art? The negative views of conceptual art stems in the fact that most people simply do not know what it is. I've given some thought to this. Thus, I've decided to write a small article about conceptual art that will hopefully answer a few questions about the art form. Hopefully it will stimulate a debate as well.
The problem facing conceptual art is the fact that the majority of people do not understand it. It would be my guess that many artist who work in this manner are also guilty of not knowing the foundation of the art form. How can you appreciate a form of art if you do not comprehend the thoughts behind it? How can you judge a form of art if you don't understand the principles of it? These are questions that deserve an answer.
Conceptual art is a form of art that involves materials just like any other artistic endeavor. However, these materials are the very "concepts" that go into the piece. This is how a conceptual artist should view his or her work and how we, as the viewers, should observe it.
Conceptual art is not about the physical materials that are used to give form to the piece. The process should not be concerned with the finished product. Conceptual art is instead focused on the 'ideas' that go into the piece. In other words, conceptual art is a form of art that is founded on the idea of concepts.
The items used to construct the concepts in physical form are not the primary focus of the work. If they are the piece is no longer a work of conceptual art. Thus, the concept is art from the moment it enters the artists mind. This can be hard to grasp since we view art as either being physically finished or not.
In conceptual art the idea of concept is vital and must be the focus of the work. This is the strongest aspect of conceptual art as an art form. Without it the strength of the conceptual piece as a whole loses validity and becomes a work of art that is more perceptual than conceptual. In other words, without a pre-determined idea the art is no longer conceptual. Instead it would be perceptual.
Perceptual art, like classical paintings or drawings, are created from one idea to the next making changes in between to suit the over-all piece visually. Conceptual art should remain true to the original idea- the concept that stem from it. The appearance of the final product is not a point of concern for the conceptual artist. It is instead a by-product of the idea. Again, this goes against much of what we are taught in the early years of our education and is a key reason why people find it hard to accept conceptual art for what it is.
One must remember that conceptual art is not about the sensation of the eye. As mentioned, works focused on capturing the eye are perceptual- conceptual art is not focused on this endeavor. Thus, it is important to not judge perceptual and conceptual art on the same terms because they are contradictory in nature. This is where the problem with accepting conceptual art as a form of art can be found.
Viewing perceptual and conceptual art equally is almost like accepting past, present, and future as the same value of time. This is will not work unless your name is Marty McFly and you happen to be friends with a mad doctor. Thus, we need to know the foundation of these works in order to understand how they can be considered art.
Most of us are conditioned to view only perceptual art as art. We are raised to enjoy the emotive works of Van Gogh, Picasso, and the Old Masters. Thus, we define the beauty of art based on that conditioned stimulus- anything else is not accepted because it goes against years of assumed knowledge of what art should be.
For example, conceptual art is rarely mentioned in the average high school art class and most art books for children and teens involve works that are based in emotion. The popular media image of the artist is of a man or woman who works in an emotional manner- the tortured artist slaying his or her demons with artistic expression. Conceptual art should be void of emotion- thus it goes against our conditioned view of art. The image that the public school system and movies have created for us.
Many of us are raised to think that art should have an emotional message for the viewer. Thus, we do not accept works that lack a clear message as being art. We expect a work of art to have a message and for it to pull at our senses. Conceptual art is at a disadvantage due to this. This is due to the fact that conceptual art is purely intuitive and is purposeless based on the words of the artists who founded it in the first place.
I must repeat: Most of us do not accept conceptual art as art because we were raised not to accept it. Conceptual art has been caught in the cross-fire of our education... through school and by the media. We can't see this form of art as art because it contradicts the idea of art that we were raised to know and accept. So in order to enjoy conceptual art one must place everything that he or she has been taught on the back-burner. That can be very hard to do.
I would like to stress that one form of art is not any better than the next. I personally feel that all works should be equally accepted as art. I actually think it is harmful to art as a whole when once form of art is degraded. However, that does not mean that I have to like one form compared to another.
There can be good art and bad art... some bad art can be good art... and so on. In other words, I'm not suggesting that conceptual art is better than other forms of art. I do not work in a conceptual manner. I'm suggesting that the artists who work in that manner deserve to have their work accepted as art without being constantly questioned by their peers. Remember that many of the forms of art we utilize today were once questioned and degraded in the past.
With that knowledge in hand... let us rethink how we should view the non-emotive art form that is conceptual art. What are your views of conceptual art? Did this text help to give you a better perspective about conceptual art? Do you still feel that conceptual art is not art? Let me know what you think.
Take care, Stay true,