A Postmodern beginning: Conceptual Art movement
proper as critique of art-as-object
Sol Lewitt, Installation at Paula Cooper Gallery, October 10-
31, 1980s, Conceptual, A Postmodern beginning
Lewitt says his art is, which he terms “conceptual,” is “„made to engage
the mind of the viewer rather than his eye or emotions‟”; the conceptual
“„making art that doesn‟t have an object as a residue‟” (Sandler, 70)
The Conceptual movement proper in post-1965 art emerged
from the confluence of two major legacies of modernism:
1. the strain of modernism, which I termed “conceptualism,” embodied in
the readymade notion of art as self-definition that emerged out of Dada
and was picked up by Fluxus performance art, Happenings and Pop
art; “as a continuation of the central thrust in Duchamp‟s art and
thinking. Duchamp had said that in introducing mass-produced
readymades into an art context, he had added a new idea to the
ordinary artifact.” (Sandler, 70)
2. the strain of modernism, which I termed “formalism,” embodied in
Minimalism and geometric abstraction that emerged out of the
reduction to the literal or physical nature of the support; “the bracketing
out of the conceptual component of minimal art” (Sandler, 70)
Conceptual art can then be viewed as the “dematerialization”
of a minimal object or a readymade, taking either back to
the original idea that generated it.
Sol Lewitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective
Instructions for the wall drawing from the artist,
“anyone can do it”! Incorporates some chance;
each time the drawing is installed its slightly
different based on who is doing it and their slightly
This text also appears as wall drawing label near
drawing when installed.
John Baldessari, An Artist Is Not
Merely the Slavish Announcer,
1960s, Conceptual, A Postmodern
John Baldessari, Commissioned
Painting: A Painting by George
Walker, 1960s, Conceptual, A
In 1968 Baldessari presented an exhibition of word
paintings, made up of canvases with statements about art
painted on them.
John Baldessari, A Painting That is its
Own Documentation, 1960s,
Conceptual, A Postmodern beginning
John Baldessari, Everything is Purged
from This Painting, 1960s, Conceptual,
A Postmodern beginning
John Baldessari, "Ingres" from Ingres and Other Parables,
1970, photograph and text, Conceptual art, Postmodern
Conceptual movement proper, can be viewed through the
lens of the “moral” of this work‟s story…. “If you have the
idea in your head, the work is as good as done”
Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art, first published 1969, A
1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic
2. Rational judgments repeat rational judgments.
3. Irrational judgments lead to new experience.
4. Formal art is essentially rational.
5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
6. If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the
result and repeats past results.
7. The artist's will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His willfulness
may only be ego.
8. When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and
imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would
be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.
35. These sentences comment on art, but are not art.
John Baldessari, John Baldessari Sings Sol Lewitt, 1970s
Conceptual Performance art, Postmodern beginning
John Baldessari, Cremation Piece, 1970s,
cookies baked with ashes of his paintings
executed before 1966, Conceptual, A
Conceptual Art movement proper recap- art as idea rather than art as
object, reducing art not to just essential visual elements and formal
properties but to ideas; sometimes conceptual art is made in response to
the materialism and commodification of the art market, sometimes to
highlight that art begins as an idea in the artist‟s mind, and sometimes to
set up a problem and answer it using form and image
This movement is indebted to Duchamp and Dada, especially Duchamp‟s works like
L.H.O.O.Q.; the work is about the idea of the Mona Lisa, what it represents in
Western culture, and about challenging or playing with that idea in the form of
doodling on its reproduction and titling it a pun, L.H.O.O.Q.- when pronounced it
forms a sentence that is a vulgar slang phrase.
This movement is also indebted to Minimalism, as per Lewitt‟s Postminimalist
Duchamp, Fountain, Dada, Modernism
Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., Dada,
Modernism (conceptual strain)
Lewitt‟s conceptualism emerges out of form-
shape, line, color etc.- vs. Duchamp‟s
conceptualism, his wordplays, puns and ironies
Mondrian, Composition in Red and Blue, De
Stijl, Modernism (conceptual strain)
Robert Morris, Untitled (L-Beams), 1960s,
Minimalism, Modernism straddles Postmodernism
But Lewitt and Duchamp, and Baldessari, challenge art-as-
autonomous object and art-as-commodification- that art is
only created through the originality of the individual
author/artist genius thus critiquing modernism‟s formalist
Then move art away from art-as-object and towards art-as-
experience, where subject becomes object!