Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Conceptual thoughts

I was reminded of the seminal essay "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" as I read about two exhibitions currently underway - one in New York and the other in London. 'You' by Urs Fischer at Gavin Brown in New York comprises a 38 'X 30' foot crater that is about eight feet deep and extends to the walls of the gallery, surrounded by a fourteen-inch ledge of concrete floor. 'Shibboleth' by Doris Salcedo in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is a minimal piece that comprises just a cleanly executed 167-metre-long crack in the floor of the gallery.

While the crack in the gallery floor conceptually explores issues of racial segregation, social exclusion, class politics and rich-poor divide, 'You', (by demolishing the gallery floor space) aims to deconstruct the almost cultish aura that surrounds the archetypal white-walled gallery of today hawking million dollar paintings in their pristine, almost vacuum-sealed environs.

It is indeed interesting to note that at a fundamental level both of these inspiring works aim to attack the concepts of separation - while the former applies to class, gender and race, the latter explores the same concept as it applies to separating artists with the right contacts exhibiting multimillion dollar pieces within clean sterile walls and those that do not have the right connections languishing along the wayside...

Sol Lewitt in "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art"

I will refer to the kind of art in which I am involved as conceptual art. In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman. It is the objective of the artist who is concerned with conceptual art to make his work mentally interesting to the spectator, and therefore usually he would want it to become emotionally dry. There is no reason to suppose, however, that the conceptual artist is out to bore the viewer. It is only the expectation of an emotional kick, to which one conditioned to expressionist art is accustomed, that would deter the viewer from perceiving this art.

Doris Salcedo 'Shibboleth' (Photo ripped from http://www.lemoniteur-expert.com)

Urs Fischer, 'You' (Photo ripped from http://nymag.com/)

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