galerie leonard et bina ellen

Ways of Thinking is designed for anyone interested in exploring contemporary art and its exhibition framework. This section offers succinct and synthesized information on the exhibition’s concept, the artists and the works featured. One finds a general presentation, areas of inquiry and ideas to reflect upon as well as suggested Internet links and bibliographic references that allow one to gain a general understanding of the artist’s approach to artmaking, the works featured and the curatorial framing adopted. Ways of Thinking’s primary objective is to draw the public into the Gallery so that it can experience first hand the work in the exhibition and gain insight into the issues at work in contemporary exhibition making. Once the exhibition is over, Ways of Thinking becomes part of a documentation database of particular interest to students, teachers and researchers interested in the Gallery’s exhibition program.


Exhibition produced by the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Curator : Michèle Thériault


In the past 10 years there has been an unprecedented resurgence of the conceptual in art. It is not so much that it spells the triumph of Conceptual art (from the mid 1960s to the early to mid 1970s) over other art movements, for today’s exploded discourse of art’s relationship to life and the public sphere, intermingled with the ferocious and frenetic forces of the market, render such a proposition meaningless. Rather, it demonstrates both the resilience and versatility of Conceptualism’s tactics and its capacity for inhabiting (and being inhabited by) a diversity of artistic practices—some paradoxically ‘unconceptual’,—that incites one to return to and rethink the original instance and the work it produced. A number of critics and historians have done exactly this in books and commentaries that attempt to track its legacy and rethink its objectives. That so many artworks incorporate conceptualist elements and approaches today is somewhat paradoxical given the failure of some aspects of Conceptual art’s program, namely its inability to reach a wider lay audience and to effectively transform the institutional apparatus of art. Furthermore, many artists in the late 70s and early 80s turned their back on it because it did not open to them avenues of further artistic engagement. Canada’s Jeff Wall embraced monumental pictorialism, finding no possibility to pursue an investigation of the social subject in the Conceptual art of the late 60s and early70s claiming that it deadened language and that its chosen medium (cards, files, binders, etc) evoked a “mausoleum look”.1 Nevertheless, that form of art along with the more loosely constituted and immaterial activities of Fluxus in the 60s and 70s questioned the institutional apparatus of art in an unprecedented way and offered alternative structures for its existence in society. It also unsettled the hegemony of visuality opening up the field to non optical forms of art.

There are many reasons that can explain why so many artists are embracing Conceptualism today or at least some of its strategies. Among them is the indisputable criticality at the heart of Conceptual art. The demands it made on conventional notions of authorship, reception and objecthood have given it a particular status in the art world and caused many artists to want to work off it, to emulate it or work against it. Its use of information-based material before information technologies had totally permeated our lives has created a referential framework of great appeal to artists seeking ways to make ‘work’ in an economy of immaterial labor. Another, but by no means last point of interest, is its economy of means that has conferred upon it great adaptability—its ability through an apparently simple apparatus, process or action to unfold underlying complexities.

Of course, nothing comes back in the same form and Conceptualism is a much broader and varied category than the historical instance of Conceptual art. In fact, the inclusiveness of the former, inflected as it now is with feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism, the relational, the new temporality of the cinematic and the sonorous has had a beneficial effect on the rethinking of the latter, opening up the borders of its exclusiveness. This opening also traverses all the pieces presented in Conceptual Filiations; all of which work ‘with’ Conceptualism. In many cases these artworks reference directly, in the form of an apparent remake (Clément / Michael Snow; Mastroiacovo / William Wegman, Sol LeWitt, Dan Graham, Mel Bochner; Olson / David Askevold; Stankievech / Bruce Nauman,) or indirectly (Pavlov / Nauman) or by quoting (Moppett / Michael Asher, Ed Ruscha) an earlier concept or process based work. Some have no such connections such as Olson, Stankievech and Wang but are nevertheless situated in that lineage. Finally, Moppett inserts direct quotes in an ensemble that appears to negate the basic principles that governed the quoted works’s realization.

The reinvestment, the quoting and the allusions that are taking place in Conceptual Filiations point to the enduring effectiveness of the conceptual mode in exposing basic problematics in art. But a closer look also reveals contradictions, deviations or mutations of the conceptual that form a basis for new critical possibilities.

1. Jeff Wall, Dan Graham’s Kammerspiel (Toronto: Art Metropole,1991), p. 19.


Alberro, Alexander. Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity. Cambridge, Mass : MIT Press, 2003.

Alberro, Alexander and Sabeth Buchmann, eds. Art After Conceptual Art. Vienna : Generali Foundation, 2006.

Alberro, Alexander and Blake Stimson, eds. Conceptual Art : A Critical Anthology. Cambridge, Mass., and London : MIT Press, 1999.

Camnitzer, Luis, Jane Farver, and Rachel Weiss, eds. Global conceptualism : points of origin 1950s-1980s. New York : Queens Museum of Art, 1999.

De Salvo, Donna, ed. Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970. London : Tate Publishing, 2005.

Gintz, Claude, et al. L'Art conceptuel, une perspective : 22 novembre 1989-18 février 1990. Paris : Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1989.

Goldstein, Ann and Anne Rorimer. Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965-1975. Cambridge, Mass., and London : MIT Press; Los Angeles : The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1996.

Morgan, Robert C. Art into Ideas : Essays on Conceptual Art. Cambridge : Cambridge and New York : Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Newman, Michael and Jon Bird, eds. Rewriting Conceptual Art. London : Reaktion Books, 1999.

Schlatter, Christian. Art conceptuel, formes conceptuelles = Conceptual art, conceptual forms. Paris : Galerie 1900-2000; Galerie de Poche, 1990.


Sophie Bélair Clément
Thérèse Mastroiacovo
Damian Moppett
Daniel Olson
Pavel Pavlov
Charles Stankievech
Chih-Chien Wang
Produced with the support of the Frederick and Mary Kay Lowy Art Education Fund.
Évènements et activités
Pistes de réflexion
Audio Video

Virtual exhibition: Collecting. The inflections of a practive.

Contacts et horaires


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