MSB brainstorming

12 April 2014

Neo-Conceptualism, Conceptual Art, and Terminology

A little homily from Dr MSB: 'Neo-Conceptualism' is the correct art historical term to describe the dominant art practices in the late 1980s, 1990s and up to now that derive from the Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The original movement lost "center stage," as is typical in the artworld. Thus when a similar approach returned, it was then a "neo-." 'Neo-' is a combining-form prefix meaning “new,” but in art, moreover, “revived,” “modified,” even "retro" (--- "Oh that once again," like 'Neo-Expressionism,' hence almost "retro-"). Neo-Conceptualists themselves generally try to refer to themselves with the earlier term (simply 'Conceptualists'), but this is a mere, albeit probably somewhat subconscious, political ploy. I have even frequently seen them teach art history wherein they jump from the 1970s to 2000, as if no anti-Conceptualist or non-Conceptualist movements occurred between Conceptualism and themselves. This maneuver is in order to claim a direct originatorial link to the earlier movement. In fact, as this has become consensus correct, it might even (and has been) termed 'Neo-Conceptual Academicism.' Don't get me wrong, Conceptualism was a great eye-opener for most artists and very liberating in its beginning. Nonetheless, the misuse of the terms in this area display a purposeful manipulation and unclarity of thought.

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