Monday, February 22, 2010

Note on Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art by Tony Godfrey

I don't have much to say about this highly accessible book about the least accessible of artistic movements, conceptualism. If you have any familiarity with art from about 1960 to the present (with a little pre-history courtesy of Duchamp, Picabia, etc.), most of this won't be startlingly new. A few new details will be sketched in.

But where it excels is in discussing conceptualism outside the art capitals, particularly the work of Russian conceptualists. Godfrey points out just how different the basis for creating conceptual art was in the Soviet Union when compared to the West. There is a danger of seeing the Russians as heroically creating dematerialized art in the face of a totalitarian system, compared to decadent Westerners. It's an appealing vision of heroic victims. But that is unfair to the artists. Their work and its basis are too particular to be reduced this way. This is one area I want to learn more about--particular about the place of Russian conceptual artists in the broader stream of "unofficial" Russian culture of the 60s and 70s.

There are also good chapters on feminism and photography.

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