Conceptual Art

In the ’60s and early ’70s, when you, along with a few other people, were inventing conceptual art, what did you think you were doing? What did you think it’s future would be … ?

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“I think the term conceptual art came later. It’s a useful term for writers, a basket to put people in, like Pop Art or Impressionism or whatever. No, back then, I had abandoned painting because I thought there was something else out there. It wasn’t a notion unique to me. A lot of artists in the world were feeling the kind of malaise that Abstract Expressionism was running out of steam. I thought there was something else. I was always interested in language. I thought, why not? If a painting, by the normal definition of the term, is paint on canvas, why can’t it be painted words on canvas? And then I also had a parallel interest in photography. I would go to the library and read books on photography. I could never figure out why photography and art had separate histories. So I decided to explore both. It could be seen as a next step for me, getting away from painting. That might be fruitful. Later, that was called conceptual art.”

Writing helped me understand what I was thinking about.

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John Baldessari

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