Within contemporary art consists contemporary art, defined by Andrew Wilson as a “set of strategies”. In this form of artistic expression, the concepts and ideas behind the artwork outweigh the artistic skill used to execute it. Though all art has a concept of sorts, conceptual art is more largely about “interrogating the concept of art” (John Baldessari). With this in mind, viewing conceptual contemporary art is less about the objects in front of you and more how they are interpreted and explained, how they challenge the conventions of traditional artistic practices.
James Turrell is a notable conceptual artist who works with light and sound to transform space. Turrell was committed to the viewer’s individual perception of light, relying on the fact that his instillations are visceral experiences that cannot be replicated by any means other than in-person viewership. Turrell challenged the concepts of in using nontraditional formats and materials, while also acknowledging art from a psychological perspective and using that to create optics that play games with and open up the mind.
Another quite notable conceptual artist is Joseph Kosuth, creator of “One and Three Chairs”. This piece depicts three chairs in three different mediums, a wooden chair, an image of a chair, and the dictionary definition of a chair. Kosuth describes his work as conceptional because “it is based on an inquiry of art and nature”. This piece calls into question the traditional ideas of object representation, requiring them to be dissected and viewed in new ways.
My favorite piece of contemporary conceptual art work is an instillation conducted by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro entitled “Womanhouse”. This project was completed by Chicago, Schapiro, and their female students in order to express tribulations of womanhood when they were provided no other space to do so. The woman occupied an abandoned house and each received a room to create their own representation of female experiences in abstract ways.
What makes these artists conceptual is that all of their artwork calls into questions societal standards for what art is and what it is supposed to look like. Each work asks big questions about ideas of beauty and tradition and societal norms. Conceptual artists’ work to create discomfort and displacement among a form of self-expression that was before interpreted on technicality and beauty.