In my quest to broaden my knowledge of Photography as art and to find a platform for my growing ideas for assignment 2 “The Unseen” I have begun to research conceptual photography.
Photography as Contemporary Art evolved for the sole purpose of taking a photograph “so the act of artistic creation begins long before the camera is held in position” (Cotton 2014). The image is the work of art. Its roots were in the conceptual art of the 1960s and 70s; photography like the art where craftsmanship was less important and it could simply depict things, the act in the image being the artistic importance.
Conceptual art stresses ideas and some artists drew attention their ideas by placing a statement about the art which invites a response from viewers; rather like Sophie Calle’s “Take care of yourself” (2007) which I have previously written about in this blog (https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research/a2-research/).
Some conceptual artists use photography to represent an idea or emotion. Jeanne Dunning (b 1960) created a series of photographs where organic mass is abstracted to the point that the human subject is lost. Apparently the blob “embodies the embarrassment and vulnerability of human physicality”.
(Museum of contemporary photography 2017)
Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968
Has been called the father of conceptual art, spearheading the American Dada movement with Picabia and Man Ray challenging what Art is, “You cannot define electricity the same can be said of art. It is a kind of inner current in a human being, or something which needs no definition” (Duchamp 2017). He promoted everyday objects to art, such as the fountain, and “fashions puns out of everyday expressions which he conveyed through visual means. The linguistic dimension of his work in particular paved the way for conceptual art” (Duchamp 2017).
Fresh Widow (1920) below is a model of a traditional French window. The title, inscribed at the base along with the words “COPYRIGHT ROSE SELAVY 1920,” is apparently a pun in the aftermath of World War I, which turned many a lusty young spouse into a widow. To signal mourning, the window panes are covered in black polished leather, which fully blocks out the view, thus disturbing the notion of painting as a window onto the world.
John Baldessari (b 1931)
I am interested in artists who combine text and images. Baldessari another pioneer of conceptual art, has an experimental approach to art “I try to give equal weight to words and image, at least when they are of equal importance to me” (Travel and Arts 2015). “Images and texts behave in similar ways – both using codes to convey their messages” ( Baldessari, no date). He is particularly interested in how text and visual messages combine, enjoying misleading, confusing, surprising and amusing his viewers to provoke their participation.
Prima Facie: Intent/Concerned 2005 (Travel and Arts 2011)
His colour card series below expresses his examination of colour and image.
Prima Facie 2005 (Travel and Arts 2011) Travel and arts (2011)
Stamberg hits the nail on the head in his article entitled “For John Baldessari, Conceptual Art Means Serious Mischief”, he says “a Baldessari makes you smile, then go … “Huh?” In his sunny studio, the artist says he’s trying to slow us down, to look in new ways” (Stamberg, 2013).
Andy Goldsworthy (b 1956)
In my foray into conceptual art I discovered that Land Art was part of the wider conceptual art movement, where “the photograph is the record, and the final product of an engagement or intervention with the rural” (Wells, 2009). Land art is art that is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape using natural materials such as rocks or twigs. The work of Andy Goldsworthy became well known not because of his landscape work, where he uses natural materials to create an artwork, but through his photographs, which are integral to his art.
Goldsworthy photographs his work before it collapses, melts, gets washed away, or otherwise disintegrates. He says that photographing is not a casual act, the documentation does not interrupt the making, “Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive” (Goldsworthy 1969). The photographs are not the reason but the result of his art, the “left overs” of his creative process.
There is a beauty and balance in his works and they cause you to look with fresh eyes at our environment.
Keith Arnatt (1930-2008) is an example of an artist who moved across the boundaries between art and photography; trained in drawing and painting, he began by exploring landscape and sculpture but in the 1970s turned to photography to manifest his conceptual ideas, he wrote, “…whatever else art is and whatever else it becomes, it is some tangible manifestation of ideas – surely that is the bottom line.” (Cited in Written and Sritharan, 2015)
He then developed a fascination with impermanence as well as the landscape and combined these ideas into other often humorous projects such as “The absence of the artist” (1968) and Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self (1969).
Written and Sritharan, B. (2015)
I particularly like the way that Keith Arnatt portrays digging himself into a hole in “Self-burial” (1969) as a response to the metaphor.
Written and Sritharan, B. (2015)
The learning points that I may take from this into my next assignment are:
- The art of creation beginning before I hold the camera.
- The use of everyday objects to represent an idea.
- The power of combining text and visual messages.
- The use of humour and “tongue in cheek” photography.
- The photograph as a record of my engagement with art.
- Photographing as a response to a metaphor.
Andy Goldsworthy – melt (1969) Available at: http://visualmelt.com/Andy-Goldsworthy (Accessed: 4 February 2017).
Andy Goldsworthy digital catalogue: Photography (no date) Available at: http://www.goldsworthy.cc.gla.ac.uk/photography/ (Accessed: 4 February 2017).
Baldessari, J. (no date) John Baldessari biography, art, and analysis of works. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-baldessari-john.htm (Accessed: 4 February 2017).
Cotton, C. (2014) The photograph as contemporary art. 3rd edn. London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.
Duchamp, M. (2017) Marcel Duchamp biography, art, and analysis of works. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-duchamp-marcel.htm#important_art_header (Accessed: 3 February 2017).
Liz, W. (2009) Photography: A critical introduction. Edited by Liz Wells. 4th edn. New York, NY: Routledge.
Marcel, S. (1935) MARCEL DUCHAMP’S WORK. Available at: http://mediation.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources/ENS-duchamp_en/ENS-duchamp_en.html (Accessed: 3 February 2017).
Museum of contemporary photography (2017) Available at: http://www.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Dunning%2C+Jeanne&record=2 (Accessed: 16 January 2017).
Stamberg, S. (2013) For John Baldessari, conceptual Art Means serious mischief. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/11/173745543/for-john-baldessari-conceptual-art-means-serious-mischief (Accessed: 4 February 2017).
Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this post are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.