An examination of the origins and legacy of the conceptual art movement.
Seth Siegelaub, a young art dealer in the early days of Conceptualism in New York City, provides the hook for this materialist reading of the early Conceptualist movement, and through Alberro's creative reading of events, ends up in the pantheon of Dan Graham and Allan Kaprow as something of an artist himself. Stressing the overlap between 1960s avant-garde art and emerging marketing techniques in the advertising industry, Alberro, an assistant art history professor at the Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, recasts the Conceptualist movement as a progressive wing of the larger postwar global information economy, using the work of social theorists Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard to provide ballast for his claims. When art becomes idea, the idea goes, ideas become commodity, in which context Siegelaub the impresario steps forward as a canny artist in his own right, a kind of virtuoso of the deal, whose oeuvre of criticism, curation and freelance symposia sponsorship allowed the first-generation conceptualists to sell their ephemeral pieces in the first place. After the initial argument is made, however, the book lapses into a familiar, if highly detailed, history of early Conceptualism, with Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt and others jockeying for career position and indulging in carefully staged self-promotion between their gnomic, advertorial statements of purpose. Furthermore, the argument that art world hype and self-construction somehow gestated with the Conceptualist generation, or somehow undermines the legitimacy of their stated purposes (a sly subtext to this reading, which elevates the cult of the curator), is somewhat unconvincing, given the art of hustling that has always underwritten the successful art world career. B&w illustrations throughout. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.