"Conceptual Art" is a contemporary form of artistic representation, in which a specific concept or idea, often personal, complex and inclusive, takes shape in an abstract, nonconforming manner, based upon a negation of aesthetic principles.
Conceptual Art is different from "Concept" as the content of art, but can be considered an abstract form of the idea and perception of the artwork originating in the artist's mind, which is later displayed in a proposed structure, and a variety of forms.
Hence a conceptual work of art, in view of its general purpose and the relative aspects of its components, has unalterable qualities; and consequently, for the artists of this movement, definitions of art and artwork, and their relation to humanity, the environment and aesthetics are in process of re-evaluation, from a standpoint apart from modernism.
Through the employment of diverse techniques, Minimalism, Performance Art, Installation,... conceptual artists have essentially sought re-interpret, what Pop artists first presented in a disorganized manner, and with no basis in the art theory. In fact, by defining the concept of an object in various ways, and through linguistic presentation and written explanations, they have directly questioned the very essence and nature of art, its mental and imagined aspects being a matter of no consequence.
In Conceptual Art, relationship between artist, artwork and viewer has been transformed. A work of "Conceptual Art" is not a mere narration of nature in its many forms; artist, through personal inference, utilizes the available elements of expression to depict not only the nature of objects, but often political, social and technological subjects as well. In many cases the spectator, and at times the artist themselves are integral parts of artwork and its basic concept.
This form of artistic expression will presumably occur in a society, where the predominance of modernism has undergone every from of modern approach, signaling the decline of methods and approaches established by modernism in art. Thus, without an understanding of approaches, a tendency to explore, and adequate knowledge of the development of modern art, "Conceptual Art" and its various manifestations will only be an altered version of the original form. Yet in reality, development of art is unpredictable and it appears that an obsession with passing fads has overtaken the art of postmodern society.
Structured upon diversity, novelty, individualism and a rejection of past traditions, modernism gave rise to numerous styles and schools in Western Art, each adding to the stability and maturation of modern art. Though the content and form are considered to be the result of historic development in Western Art, especially since Renaissance, modernism unavoidably is preceding art forms. For each new experience could potentially be a valid and more comprehensive example of original art.
What was believed to be the investigative and innovative aspect of modern art and of its pioneers, apparently came to the end in the first of 20th century; modernism that had renounced museums and their values produced other museums instead. With the onset of the 2nd World War and migration of European artists, the center of Western Art shifted to USA, producing new developments.
While these developments were founded upon the basic precepts of the modern masters, and the result considered the zenith of modern art, they nonetheless provoked a complete disintegration of classic modernism. The generation of postwar artists created works of psychotic boldness, revealing not only the natural evolution of modernism, but its destruction and termination as well.
As the tragedy of war and its ensuing social and economical crises drew to end, conditions for economic growth came about, and postwar artistic standards could not longer remained restricted to form and content of modernism. The last outcome of modernism was to be seen in diverse, yet aesthetically and conceptually disorganized works of Pop Art movement; and at this stage, alongside the experiences of Pop Artists, other movements gradually emerged that proclaimed the end of the era of the "ism's" of modernism.
With the advent of new artistic currents in 1960s, form and content of artwork and its relation to humanity and the environment was once again a matter of dispute. Artists were utilizing the latest technological advances in expressing their concepts. The ability to magnetically record image and sound and display the recorded material on any number of screens, brought "Video Art" into visual art exhibitions.
In 1965, Minimalists inspired by geometric abstraction, utilized the simplest forms and masses conceivable in industrial compositions, striving to have the greatest possible effect on a viewer through the least possible modification in form.
The art of "Installation", which had appeared early in 20th century, as a direct result of modernism's attempt to flee the constraints of traditional easel painting, now gained widespread use as visual artists sought to expand their working space; and large-scale works appropriate to their space and function were created.
In 1968, a group of English artists known as "Art and Language Group" gathered to discuss theory and practice in relation to artistic creativity. This group denied the "art for art's sake" approach and methods derived from modernism, believing the source of meaning in visual arts to be language, and therefore featured words and written explanations in their works.
Joseph Kosuth was member of this group, who used written text on different levels; in "One and Three Chairs", he combined a real chair, a life-size image of the chair and a dictionary entry of the word-questioning the reality of his subject matter and the work of art.
During these years, a number of artists in America and Europe left their studios to make use of the vast expanses available in nature, oceans, deserts, farmlands and sites that were in accessible. These works are categorized as "Land Art", works erected on grand scale that transient quality of this art, symbolizing mutual passion of man and nature, was reminiscent of the legendary memories and myths of human life passed down from ancient history.
On the other hand, there were those who found the human body the most suitable medium for communicating with the audience of artwork. At times combining the qualities the visual arts, body movements and acting skill; at times affecting violence and revolting behavior towards the human body, frequently performed by the artist in a manner intended to shock, the proponents of this art-form introduced their concepts. This art has appeared as "Performance Art", "Happening" and "Body Art".
Thus "Conceptual Art", which began as a movement among the many artistic trends of the sixties, conceived to demonstrate precedence of the artist's envisioned concept over the technique employed for its presentation, was found to encompass far more than its contemporary movements and was a major influence on later trends. So great was this effect that while many of these art-forms have possess distinct characteristics and individual names, they are collectively based on the aesthetic viewpoints of Conceptual Art.