The Rematerialization of the Art Object

April 7, 2011

So I bought Phaidon’s coffee-table-ish Conceptual Art book and I haven’t given it much of a look yet but what is immediately striking, flipping through the color plates, is the difference in visuals between OG conceptual art and what we call conceptual art today.  It’s striking because while a lot of the work in the book is idea-first and workmanlike, I can’t think of nearly any recent conceptual art that isn’t either 1) performance or 2) realized in a visually seductive way.  (If you have examples I would like to know them.)

So how and when and why did idea-driven art need to get seductive?  It’s almost disheartening, looking at the book, that idea art now has to be packaged and sold via traditional media when it was sort of the point that the art wasn’t about aesthetics, it was about ideas and about the viewer completion of those ideas.  And I’m blanking on any recent conceptual art that isn’t really elegant and visual in nature.  Not that that art is bad, merely that it’s visually absorbing.  Which begs the question of whether it’s really conceptual art, and what that means now.

As someone who considers himself first and foremost a conceptual artist, one who uses various media, and an artist whose work is often cerebral and “dry”, I’m wondering whether I lack the seduction I need in order to get my ideas across.  Or the traditional “skill” associated with traditional artmaking, though part of what I want to do is eschew skill in favor of democritizing my work so it does become a case of “hey I could do that” because giving the viewer a sense of agency is part of the point.

I could be way off, though.  I’ll write more when I actually read the book but if the three or four of you who read this have some contemporary examples of work that rivals early Bochner or Huebler or Lozano let me know.

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2 Responses to “The Rematerialization of the Art Object”

  1. Adam Feldmeth Says:

    Are you asking for examples that date from the last few years which follow the paramaters you laid out or is the query a generational one?

    Does Bochner work made in 2010 have a look?

    • Nicholas Says:

      I guess in a general way I’m looking for generational examples where the idea outweighs the visual presentation. And Bochner in 2010 the look of visually compelling conceptual art, in his (great) text paintings. So I think the key is in unadorned performance but I could be wrong.


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