A brief history….Conceptual Art

“Everything brought into proper focus and context can be an art object.”

The Conceptual Art movement began in the 60s and was a movement based on ideas. Artist of this movement famously rejected standard ideas of art. Works created during this time were minimalist in nature; many critics referred to their art as a “dematerialized” art. Conceptual artists were not focused on the visual or aesthetic nature of their art. Skill nor the commodification or marketability of their art was a concern, it was all about the idea. Articulating an artistic idea was enough to be considered art. Unlike other movements, the conceptual art movement wasn’t as cohesive. Many artist were doing very different things.

David Ireland was a part of this movement, specifically in the Bay Area, which took hold in the 70s. Even though this movement was happening all over the world, the Bay Area was an incubator for experimentation. Much of the art created during this movement only exists in documentation and ephemera because of its performance heavy nature. Ireland took a more materialistic approach to his art. He focused on the process in which works were created, much like the performances his counterparts were executing, but had a particular focus on the materials he used. Although Ireland might have had a more material focused body of work than other conceptual artist, the concept and idea behind the work, the process, was most important.

Like other conceptual artist, some of Ireland’s work only exists in documentation and ephemera. He referred to his performances as actions, the most notable being the Maintenance Action at 500 Capp Street. Today we can only see this action performed in a video created by Tony Labat, and of course we can see the completed work by visiting the house. Mr. Gordon’s Birthday Party, 1979, was another action performed at 500 Capp Street. Documentation of this work exists in the form of a sculpture created by Ireland; a piece of Mr. Gordon’s birthday cake sealed in a jar with a photo of Mr. Gordon blowing his candles out attached. There are also photographs of the action in Ireland’s photo collection.

This movement spanned a wide range of artist and encompasses a multitude of artworks. Who are some of your favorite conceptual artists?