Wikipedia defines “conceptual art” as “art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns.”
Conceptual art, as a movement, has been around a long time, since the 1960’s. But its influence on jewelry has not been as great as with painting or sculpture. Usually conceptual art requires a lot of narrative text and background information, for the viewer to understand what’s going on. Because jewelry is only art as it’s worn, this makes it awkward to have all this textual material tag along with the wearer.
But it is important that artists be able to incorporate conceptual ideas within their pieces, and have these pieces reflect these ideas, as part of the overall aesthetic and appreciation of the piece. How does the artist accomplish this? How does the artist influence how the viewers interpret the pieces and the associated concepts?
Is it sufficient for jewelry to be ‘intellectually stimulating’? Or must it be beautiful and appealing, as well?
If concepts and meanings change over time, is this something the artist can anticipate or control? Or does the artist have to settle perhaps for achieving ‘success’ in the present moment, but ‘failure’ over time?
What do we find online about conceptual jewelry?
Conceptual jewelry – a list by lahutter – BLOG
To me, these pieces are more 1-trick ponies, kinda surface’y, not deep, concept but not conceptual. Not subtle, not elegant, good ideas without the resonance associated with good design.
Let’s continue to web-surf.
On this CRAFTHAUS BLOG, there is a long discussion about what conceptual jewelry is, should be, and is not.
One person in this discussion asks, if the piece is still “jewelry”, if you need a narrative contextual explanation of social, political, or otherwise conceptual meanings? Great question. At one point in my life, I had founded and directed The Social Movement Gallery — an art gallery devoted to social and political art. We used the art to trigger social and community discussion and action. But we found that the art lost it’s punch outside the exhibit and its timeframe. Even art about the struggles of women seemed dated one year later, as the discussions and vernacular of these discussions changed as the issue changed with new times and challenges.
Another great discussion of conceptual jewelry and art can be found on this blog Conceptual Metalsmithing. “When we look at jewelry, we don’t see through it to look at the content it contains, we look at it directly. We look at its objectness, we look at its craftsmanship, we covet it, we are seduced by AN OBJECT. If we attempt to communicate or infuse content into our jewelry for the sake of the viewer/wearer we are often thwarted because of the inherent preciousness and objectness of the medium. Further, it will take quite some undoing in order to retrain jewelry viewers to see more than just the jewel.”
To what extent can Jewelry communicate content? Or be made to communicate content?
Here, a picture of the ring is inserted into the ring itself. The artist intends to convey a sense of narcissim.
Continuing surfing the web, we encounter many jewelry sites, where the label “concept” is used in a way to show that the artist had some special kind of insight when combining materials and shapes. Should we equate “concept” with “creativity” or “intuitive insightfulness”? Don’t know.
I visited one artist’s website – So Young Park – where she took simple concepts and enfused them with artistic vitality, in some unexpected, yet appealing ways. Her pieces are not there to change minds and move worlds. Her pieces are there to allow the viewer to experience concepts by experiencing the art itself.
So Young Park divides her pieces up between “HANDCRAFTED” and “CONCEPTUAL”. So, she loses me here a little bit.
Is she trying to say that one category is more saleable, more wearable, more approachable, and the other category is not? Does Conceptual, then, mean that the piece does not have to be wearable, or as wearable, if it were not?
Her pieces are wonderful, and these two non-conceptual, yet handcrafted necklaces below, earn but a Number. Not a concept. Not a title. They are beautiful anyway. And seem conceptual to me nonetheless. Has the artist a sense of fear by avoiding assigning them a concept or conceptual underpinning? Or is this strategy? Or some sense of good business? Or does the artist view these pieces as without concept? Or where concept should be subordinate to aesthetic and material concerns?
Sorry, I think if you call yourself a Jewelry Designer, and see the works you create as resulting from a sense of design, you can’t but not have applied concepts in their creation, and these concepts are at least as equally as important as aesthetic, material or technique.