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02 December 2018

Dr Great Art Episode 43: Neo-Conceptualism, the Term

The newest Dr Great Art podcast, Episode 43. Neo-Conceptualism, the Term
This episode's artecdote clarifies the historical terminology for the dominant Postmodernist art movement since circa 1985: 'Neo-Conceptualism.' Neo-Conceptualists themselves generally try to refer to themselves with the earlier term as 'Conceptualists,' but this is a political ploy, an ahistorical part of a powerplay, pretending that they are a part of the movement form which they derive.
#neo-conceptualism #conceptart #arthistory #drgreatart


16 September 2018

Neo-Conceptualism, the Term

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 43rd "Dr Great Art" brief podcast.

This episode's artecdote is a little homily from Dr Great Art: I wish to clarify the historical terminology for the dominant Postmodernist art movement since circa 1985: 'Neo-Conceptualism.'
'Neo-Conceptualism' is the correct art historical term to describe the main 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, termed 'Conceptualism' or 'Conceptual Art' crystallized as a distinct art movement, if not form, around 1969 with Joseph Kosuth's early manifesto of conceptual art, Art after Philosophy. (Having had precursors of course in such artists as Marcel Duchamp and Henry Flynt, yet they are prototypes, not "movement members" in themselves).

As in all movements or even epochs, the beginnings and edges are fuzzy, of course, as such entities fade in, reach a peak of attention and then fade out, --- but often linger for a while with interesting works. Originally called "Idea Art" by some, it was renamed with the more resounding-sounding (yet of the same meaning) 'Conceptual Art' from a short text by Sol LeWitt (who, by the way, had a far broader notion behind the term). As an aside for my German-speaking listeners, it has nothing to do with the trendy Neu-Deutsch word 'Konzept' meaning a written up 'plan.' It comes from the English meaning 'idea' as I have said. This is a common misunderstanding here, and part of the problem I will discuss.

In short, Conceptual Art was and is art in which the idea involved outweighs any formal, technical, or material concerns, attempting to approach the unreachable position of being formless. Critical interest and artworld domination by Conceptual Art reached its peak around 1974.
Nevertheless, Conceptualism lost "center stage," as is inevitable in the artworld for each leading movement, around 1978. In effect, in many ways, it served as the last and foreseeable phase of reductivist Modernism. There were other Modernist movements or trends that were concurrent with the end of Conceptualism, such as Performance and Body Art, Photorealism, Earth Art and arte povera, and even installation, which began as a movement but ended becoming a genre or medium used in almost all art directions. But Conceptualism was king.

Conceptualism, more importantly, was followed by a chain of rather fascinating reactions against it at the beginning of Postmodernism with the first Postmodernist movements: Postmodern Architecture, Feminist Art, New Imagism, Pattern and Decoration, Neo-Everything (including "Pictures"), and --- hugely --- Neo-Expressionism, and more.

Around 1985, It made a partial come-back in the form of Neo-Geo and Appropriation Art, which quickly became recognized as a reborn version of Conceptualism. This was concurrent with the creation of the international art-star curator, and the transformation from the first, experimental, pluralist phase of PoMo into the second, academicist phase, but that will be the subject of another podcast.

When any art movement returns which is massively similar in approach to an older art, after the former had lost dominance, it is then termed a "neo-something-or-other." 'Neo-' is a combining-form prefix meaning "new," but in art, moreover, "revived," "modified," even "retro" ("Oh that once again," like' 'Neo-Expressionism,' etc. ---hence almost "retro-").

This resuscitated form of the creature under discussion was, thus, correctly quickly identified by art historians as 'Neo-Conceptualism.' And beyond chronological terms, it is indeed a 'Neo,' having far more learned, memorized, derivative and spiffed-up forms stemming from Conceptualism, --- thus an academicist version thereof, I assert.

To the main point of my podcast:

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. I made a partial list of these already here.

This manoeuvre is in order to claim a direct, originatory link to the earlier movement. In fact, as this has become consensus-correct, it might even (and has been) termed 'Neo-Conceptual Academicism' as I suggested. Please resist this "small-p" political use of the term  'Conceptualism' for anything but the actual movement. It is an ahistorical part of a powerplay

Don't get me wrong, Conceptualism was a great eye-opener for most artists and very liberating in its beginning. And Conceptual "approaches" may indeed someday become genres rather than movements, as installation did or as still-life and others did centuries before. Nonetheless, the misuse of the terms in this area display a purposeful manipulation and unclarity of thought. People such as Jeff Koons and Co., and their myriad of provincial curator-supported followers, whether good or bad, whether you like them or not, are Neo-Conceptualists.

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 43.

Neo-Conceptualism, the Term

If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also, I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my room-filling painting-installations with accompanying paintings.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Women Artists throughout history and a taster of many of my presentations.

You can find or contact me at
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