Thinking and Seeing Beyond the Lens: Conceptual Photography from the Collection

Drawing from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s permanent collection, this exhibition presents an illustrative selection of works by artists who have applied the framework of Conceptual art to the medium of photography. By theorizing beyond the lens, they have heeded the call of American artist Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), who succinctly stated in 1967, “The idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work."

Although Conceptual art can be associated with early 20th-century works by French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), it did not emerge as a global artistic style until the 1960s. Artists across Europe and the Americas emphasized idiosyncratic thinking and atypical methods of production for their mostly intangible artworks. Idea and process took precedence over execution, as seen in the photographs of the artists featured in the exhibition: Blythe Bohnen, Barbara Ess, Wanda Lee Hammerbeck, Robert Heinecken, James Hugunin, Ana Mendieta, Robert Morris, Kenji Nakahashi, and Dennis Oppenheim.

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