Some 20th-century artists pushed the limits of abstraction to the extreme. Once free of the perceived requirement to make representational art, they began to focus more on their ideas for what art could be. For some, the idea or concept became the most important part of the artwork. Since the 1960s, this type of art has been called conceptual art. Conceptual artists documented or diagrammed their ideas for various artworks. If they were interested in creating a physical object based on their plan, they either made it themselves or provided the instructions to other people to fabricate the piece as a drawing, painting, sculpture, or other work. Some conceptual artists simply display the plans, texts, or notations as an artwork, which emphasizes the idea as the key part of their creative process.
of Conceptual Art
• The artist’s ideas are more important than the actual painting, sculpture, or object created.
• The use of language takes priority over visual experience.
• Artists criticized art-world institutions and society and wanted to create something outside of the system.
View the images and read the background information
1. Lawrence Weiner Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole
2. Sol LeWitt X with Columns
3. On Kawara TODAY series
If you were given Lawrence Weiner’s text “Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole” to make into an artwork, what would you create? Make several sketches of how you might interpret the artist’s concept as a drawing, painting, or sculpture.
The Walker Art Center has displayed Weiner’s Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole in several ways, including on the exterior of the building (see Related works of art below) and on the Web site. Discuss how these two representations give form to the artist’s idea. Is it art? Why or why not?
Look carefully at Sol LeWitt’s X with Columns and read the background information. What do you think the artist wrote as the concept or instructions for producing this sculpture?
In the TODAY series, On Kawara explores
the concept of time and the “reading
of the days.” Do you keep a record of days in a diary or journal,
on a calendar, or in an assignment book? Do you consider this to be an
practice? If so, what makes it art? If not, what could be added or changed
for it to become art?
What do you think is more important, the idea behind an artwork or the actual work of art?
Conceptual art is a style of art that includes a wide variety of ideas and media. The emphasis on the artist’s thoughts and ideas led some to consider any activity or thought as a potential artwork. One of the goals of conceptual artists was to expand the scope of what art could be. In some cases, artists considered everything in life to be a work of art. Do you agree or disagree with these artists? Why or why not?
Key Questions:1. What is art?