Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CONCEPTUAL ART CAN BE TASTY


Gilbert & George (born Gilbert Proesch, Italy, George Passmore, UK) Cabbage Worship, 1982.
The artistic duo, always dressed to the nines in suits, consider themselves "living sculpture" and refuse to separate their art from their daily lives. They have honorary doctorates, a retrospective exhibit at the Tate (2007), and world recognition for exhibits that truly involve their daily activities - feces, bodily fluids, and sex acts. Their work falls into both Performance art and Conceptualism.

With heavy black lines and intense,segmented color plates, the image resembles a stained glass window, but here the Godhead is a mere cabbage, lampooning our faith in dubious concepts.
Clinched fists may turn out thoughts to secular images - Lenin, Black Power, etc.

Conceptual artists
attempt to convey an expression, idea or concept without presenting a traditional object in an established medium such as painting, sculpture, photograph or assemblage of found objects. Whether a
concept is the same as an artist's intention is part of the debate.

A good example is John Latham's (1921-2006) Still and Chew: Art and Culture, an event in 1966. Latham took out a copy of Clement Greenberg's didactic treatise on modern art, Art and Culture (1961) from his art school Library in London. He invited his students to join him in chewing pages from the book into pulp which were then dissolved, distilled, and the fermented liquid sealed in several glass vials.

What was his intention? Perhaps it had something to do with Greenberg's early employment in the CIA, his appropriation of the German word kitsch to describe art as a commodity, or his later support for Abstract Expressionism, especially Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman and David Smith.

Below: David Smith, Hudson River Landscape, 1951


When Latham received an overdue notice from the library, he attempted to return the vial (housed in a leather case, resembling the book), but the librarian rejected it as unreadable.

Latham's teaching contract was not renewed, but Spit and Chew: Art and Culture was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City [Graphic Arts Division,Princeton University].


Another example came out of the 1920's Bauhaus School in Germany where theater studies explored the relationships of light, space, and sound. These experiments continued at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and emerged in New York in the 1960s as FLUXUS and Performance Art.

Joseph Beuys (Krefeld, Germany, 1921-1986) Fat Corner, 1968.

Beuys expressed himself in both performance and conceptual arts and frequently using food as a medium. One of his most memorable events was throwing a blood sausage over the Berlin Wall as a gesture towards unity.

Gordon
Matta-Clark (1943-1978) rented a building at 112 Greene Street, Greenwich Village, and opened a cooperative restaurant. The business of preparing, serving, and consuming food was considered "performance."


Lawrence Weiner (born Bronx, NY, 1942), Apples & Eggs, Salt & Pepper, 1999
Weiner's manifesto states:

ART IS THE EMPIRICAL FACT OF THE

RELATIONSHIP OF OBJECTS TO OBJECTS
IN RELATION TO HUMAN BEINGS & NOT DEPENDENT UPON
HISTORICAL PRECEDENT FOR EITHER USE OR LEGITIMACY



As art critic Peter Schjeldahl succinctly puts it in "Conceptual Motion" (The New Yorker magazine, August 3, 2009):

[Conceptualism] advanced a common cause of swinging the identity of art away from handmade objects, marketed by dealers, to cogitated manifestations, administered by curators as auteurs.

1 comment:

monaluna said...

that poor librarian. ew. pretty funny, though.