Conceptual Art II - The Afterglow, 1970 to the present
Dr. Michael Salcman, art historian, poet and neurosurgeon
Starting in the 1970’s, the philosophy of Conceptual Art created offshoots like Performance Art, Arte Povera and Installation Art, and directly impacted generations of photographers. In Europe, Conceptual Art continued to advance through artists like Joseph Beuys and Yves Klein, as well as Jannis Kounellis, an Arte Povera artist. The art critic Walter Benjamin’s seminal publication, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, posed the idea that visual culture had come to the end of originality and authenticity. Installation artists, like Rachel Whiteread and Ann Hamilton, along with Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince of the Pictures Generation, took Benjamin’s critical theory to heart posing questions around authorship and accessibility. Today, Conceptual Art is a spectrum of artistic mediums from traditional to truly cutting edge, and the influences of the movement can be found in Gerhard Richter’s paintings, Bruce Nauman’s videos, Janine Antoni’s products and performances, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Candy Spills”. Many such artists are also involved in Identity Art about gender, sexuality and race. Almost every type of art today (including painting) is displayed with post hoc explanations about its conceptual basis, but in most cases the emphasis is on both the object and the theory behind its making. Unlike the 1960s and 1970s, almost no Conceptual art today is simply about the idea.
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