Conceptualism has played a crucial role in art history for nearly a century, yet it remains somewhat of an outlier from the more “established” movements and methods that utilize familiar media like painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography. However, conceptual art can and does in fact incorporate these hallmarks of artmaking – they are just utilized, presented, and interpreted in a more ambiguous manner. Process and aesthetics are still very much part of the package, but concepts and ideas take center stage. On April 4 artist, zingmagazine founder/publisher/editor, and Dikeou Collection co-founder/curator Devon Dikeou spoke at Denver Art Museum as part of the Logan Lecture Series, Artists on Art: From Any Angle in which she delved into her own practice as a conceptual artist while simultaneously reflecting on the thoughts and procedures nearly all artists encounter, no matter their -ism.
In a 2009 interview with Karen Wright for Art in America, artist John Baldessari stated that he would tell his students, “Instead of looking at things, look between things.” This “between-ness” has played a pivotal role in Dikeou’s own practice, and she used the quote as the jumping off point for her talk which helped ground the audience before blasting off on a fun and twisting ride through her mind. The talk was structured around a 2016 book titled Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists, which features words of wisdom from artists related to one of forty-two different topics, like space, color, audience, success, failure, and limitation. Dikeou responded to each of these topics with her own insights and anecdotes, resulting in a poignant, entertaining, and educational orientation on the inner mechanisms of the art world from someone who has worked it from every angle.
Art was not the only thing that Dikeou related to the forty-two topics from the book. She also pulled heavily from pop culture. From MTV, Elon Musk, and Mad Magazine, to fashion, 80s teen movies, and Playboy, Dikeou ran the gamut when it came to referencing the wildly diverse range of what inspires her daily. These references, seemingly so peripheral to the world of art, reveal aspects of the “between-ness” of her practice, all that transpires between studio and gallery, between exhibition and audience, that subtly yet crucially influences how art is understood and valued.
Dikeou’s delivery was very performative as well, complete with singing, poetry, jokes, props, and audience interaction via Instagram. Attendees were also treated to a very special limited-edition keepsake: a glass perfume bottle with engraved text to commemorate the occasion. Inside the bottle is a piece of lavender ribbon printed with the day’s weather forecast … just a prediction. Naturally people opened the bottles to smell them, and insisted how wonderful the smell was even though they were completely unscented. These gestures, so immediately delightful, are really a hidden nod/wink to conceptualism and how it spins the obvious into a deeper consideration of cultural values and ideas.
*photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum