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Artist critics

An important aspect of the art of the 1960s and 70s was the prominence of artist critics.

Many of the artists working in the 1960s had, unlike artists of the previous generation, attended university and were confident and able theoreticians and communicators. Donald Judd studied philosophy and art history at the Art Student League and Columbia University, and between 1969 and 1965 worked as a critic, writing for journals such as Arts Magazine, and championing fellow artists like Frank Stella and Dan Flavin. Sol LeWitt, who went to Syracuse University, also wrote articles for art magazines.

His Paragraphs on Conceptual Art (1967) published in Artforum, and Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969) published in Art Language helped to define conceptual art as a movement.

The production and activities of the artists of the sixties and seventies was thus reinforced by a theoretical structure created primarily by the artists themselves and so sympathetic and well-informed about their aims. This served not only to help legitimize their practice but also enabled the artist to have a greater control over how their work was presented and discussed.

As well as artists writing about art for art journals, some conceptual artists began to use writing itself as a medium. Joseph Kosuth dispensed with the art object altogether and in his Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) series (1966-7) began to use copies of dictionary entries as art. In this illustration the entries appear in book form, but the works for which he is perhaps best known were large wall-mounted copies of the entries. In 1968 John Baldessari presented an exhibition of word paintings, made up of canvases with statements about art painted on them.

A Painting That is its Own Documentation  

John Baldessari,
A Painting That is its Own Documentation 1968

© John Baldessari

John Baldessari,
Everything is Purged from this Painting, 1968
© John Baldessari

Everything is Purged from this Painting