Conceptual art is a term used to describe artwork that holds the idea (or concept) in greater esteem than the media used to create the work, or its aesthetic appearance. Installations and site-specific work are conceptual, as they do not conform to traditional notions of art. Rather than the idea being represented in the art (as in the case of a painting of a pipe for instance), the idea is the art.
The Conceptual Art Movement rose to prominence during the 1960s, and was championed by artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt and Lawrence Weiner. Among non-traditional materials used, like bicycle wheels and chairs, was language.
Out of the Conceptual Art Movement was born the Art & Language Movement, in 1968. Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin and Harold Hurrell were the founding members of the group in England. For the most part, the movement was contained within the UK and the USA in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. This group of artists gave language and text a centralised role in their artwork.
Incorporating language into art pushes the boundaries of what it means to create art. There is less of an emphasis on artistic skill than on the realisation of an idea, sometimes using found objects and cheap material. Evidently, to fully grasp the intention of the art, comprehension of the language used is necessary. This brings to light the question of accessibility of the art among non-English speakers and those without a formalised education. Although undoubtedly conceptual art today might employ languages other than English, in its initial stages, artists in the Art & and Language Movement primarily used English in their work. Indeed, consumers who cannot comprehend the meaning of the words can appreciate the visual or aural nature of the words for their own sakes. Visual art is not the only mode of presentation of art that incorporates language. Spoken and recorded text was and is used as another effective way to convey an idea. Language is a powerful tool, which can be found and used in the most unlikely places.
John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art 1971
Lithograph, composition: 22 3/8 x 29 9/16" (56.8 x 75.1 cm); sheet: 22 7/16 x 30 1/16" (57 x 76.4 cm)