Conceptual Art And The Importance Of Language

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Radical Notions
Conceptual Art and the Importance of Language

Conceptual art as defined by Lucy Lippard in Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972 is “work in which the idea is paramount and the material form is secondary, lightweight, ephemeral, cheap, unpretentious and/or ‘dematerialised’” (1997 vii). Unlike their traditional predecessors, the Conceptualists of the late 1960’s believed that arts true purpose lied solely in the work’s conceptual connotations; in a theoretical dimension where an artwork need only to be intellectually engaging. Artworks in this Conceptual realm needn’t be beautiful, radically challenging the ideals of philosophers like Greenberg (Weis 2016, 33), and transforming the art object from
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His piece Learn to Read Art (1990) is an installation piece with the words ‘learn to read art’ pasted upon a gallery wall, the letters being grey with a black outline. The lack of colour and visual imagery makes the work direct and stimulates the viewer to immediately contemplate the meaning of the words instead of how they appear visually. The text ‘learn to read art’ is accusatory and pushes the viewer to educate themselves on how not only to look at art but how to interpret it. The text also reiterates the importance of language and how the only way the viewer can learn about what art is is by using words and to learn to read and interpret those words properly. Weiner in conversation with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark stated “I think communication is the major point of art” (2014), which is why his pieces directly engage with not only the language he is familiar with but with language that those surrounding him at the time are familiar with. One Quart Exterior Green Industrial Enamel Thrown on a Brick Wall (1969/95) displayed in a Dutch museum is a perfect example of Weiner communicating with the people that this work is being shown to. The work is the words ‘One Quart Exterior Green Industrial Enamel Thrown on a Brick Wall’ printed onto the wall in both English – Weiner’s mother language – and Dutch – the prominent language of the people viewing this artwork in this particular space. This work is also a flawless example of the third point in his “Declaration of Intent”: “3. The work need not be built.” Weiner uses language in this piece to have the viewer construct the physical artwork for themselves, mentally visualising the vibrant green splatter across a gridded and rugged earthy texture (Jones, 2006 45). Weiner in this piece is communicating the process of a potential piece of artwork linguistically, presenting and

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