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Joseph Kosuth and Sol Lewitt: Illogically Logical

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Submitted By christinar23
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Throughout the course of time art movements are bound to change and come about. Through these changes also comes different analysis and critiques of the works being made. Greenberg and Alloway were big critics in the 40s and 50s, but by the time of the 1960s artists begin to write their own critiques. Two artists who take part in writing their own critiques of the evolving conceptual art movement are Sol LeWitt and Joseph Kosuth. In “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” and “Sentences of Conceptual Art,” by LeWitt is best defining conceptual art by the process in which it is made. The logic or rather no logic behind the simplicity that is conceptual art and how it is to be understood is the focus of LeWitts paragraphs and sentences. LeWitt so states that “Conceptual Artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.”1 For Kosuth, he pushes the understanding of art as a language, and the value of the function and idea of artwork being the primary basis in what makes a piece of work good, rather than the aesthetic. Sol Lewitt states it best by saying that conceptual art is not necessarily logical2, and it isn’t. It is, however, simple; simple in the sense of understanding that it is not the completed object that is the focus of the work, but rather the idea that is trying to be portrayed. In the end, whether or not a material piece is even created is trivial. Conceptual art is made to get the mind of the viewer to think, and question the art and its function. It is not made to necessarily be visually pleasing or bring forth any kind of emotions, because art that is meant for sensation of the eye would be perceptual.3 This is clearly very opposite from the types of work to come out of the movement of abstract expressionism, where the process and emotions being portrayed were the most important factor to a piece. LeWitt was famous for making such works that would simply be instructions on how to complete a work such as Drawing Series 1968 (Fours) in which he gives instruction on how to compose a drawing of squares. He gives in great detail the process in which one is to go through in creating the finished product, but it is ultimately the fulfillment of the idea of the artwork that is what makes conceptual art succeed, not if the drawings had even been done by LeWitt himself. He argues that the form itself is over very limited importance; it becomes grammar for the total work.4 Joseph Kosuth argues the importance of the idea of an artwork as being the basis for what makes a piece of work “good.” In traditional art it is the idea of aesthetics, what pleases the tastes of the viewer and critic. The nature of art was not something that was questioned until Duchamp had completed his first unassisted readymade. It was from there that the “language” of art had changed from focusing on the form to what was being said.5 The reason for existence, Kosuth argued, is what would define a good work of art, no longer the eye pleasing design or emotional connection. Some of these pieces were even quite boring and emotionally dry, because that is what would get a viewer to really think about the context of the piece. In Kosuth’s own piece One and Three Chairs of 1965 he puts together a piece consisting of a chair, and photograph of a chair as well as text defining what a chair is. The viewer is now left with the question of the congruency and in congruency of each field of work here: photograph, text and physical object and what one is considered real here. Not only are the aesthetics of the work no longer important, but the value of commodity as well. The value of pieces of art up until the point of conceptualism played a huge part in the importance of a piece. A Pollock piece or even an Andy Warhol piece is worth millions today because there are only so many pieces made, and because their pieces are a part of the eye pleasing aesthetic that is traditional art. Though LeWitt and Kosuth were not the founders of conceptual art movement, the role I which they play in the movement is really monumental. They grasp and personify what it means to be conceptual artists and give great insight into explaining the philosophy that is conceptual art. For Kosuth, he understands the “language” of art and the real nature of its function that is most important. For LeWitt, he understands the illogic behind what goes into successfully completing a piece. In the end, however, language or logic the concept to be stressed most is always the idea. Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs, 1965 Sol LeWitt, Drawing Series,…...

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