Curated by Warren Neidich and Sozita Goudouna
The Opening Gallery
42 Walker St.
New York City, New York, 10013
Opening date: Tuesday, December 13, at 6 – 8PM
Dates: December 13, 2022 – February 7, 2023
Participating Artists: Coleman Collins, Constance DeJong, Jimmie Durham, Charles Gaines, Leslie Hewitt, Agnieszka Kurant, Olu Oguibe, Jimmy Raskin, Martha Rosler, Allen Ruppersberg, Chrysanne Stathacos, and Carol Szymanski
The exhibition Wet Conceptualism aims to establish a category of conceptual art called Wet Conceptual Art. As there was no category of Wet Conceptual Art at the time of conceptual art’s invention, the works that would be understood here to fulfill its requirements were either included in the canon of Dry Conceptual Art, as a default gesture or left out completely. Dry Conceptual Art is the form of conceptual art that we are most familiar with, as it was elucidated in Lucy Lippard’s and John Chandler’s essay The Dematerialization of Art. Wet Conceptual Art has different sources than traditional Dry Conceptual Art. While Dry Conceptual Art emerged from the ready-made of Marcel Duchamp such as the Bicycle Wheel of 1913-1916, or the proto-minimalist paintings of Kasmir Malevich such as Black Square, 1913 as well as the Lettrism movement of Isidore Isou, Wet Conceptual Art emerged from the collective works of Francis Picabia (especially his work The Caodylic Eye,1921) the soft sculptures of Meret Oppenheim—especially Fur Covered Tea Cup, Saucer and Spoon, 1936—Situationism’s emphasis upon mapping and the time based, comedic and sometimes graphic works of Fluxus Art. Whereas Sol Lewitt, especially his early work, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner were the strongest advocates of Dry Conceptualism at its inception, artists like Adrian Piper, Yoko Ono, Martha Rosler, Bas Jan Ader, and the curator Seth Seigelaub were the secret trailblazers of Wet Conceptualism. Both Wet and Dry Conceptualism were born in the heyday of the 1960’s counterculture as a response to the revolutionary spirit of the time. For several reasons, which this exhibition will attempt to clarify, Wet Conceptualism was subsumed by Dry conceptualism and would have to await until now for the right entanglement of certain social, political, economic, and technological relations to make its voice known. Wet Conceptual Art is not so much about the immaterial object as it is about precarious and immaterial labor characteristic of the cybernetically inflected information and knowledge economies and as a result performance and the poetic are emphasized. Both Dry and Wet Conceptual Art stressed the importance of indexicality above and beyond representation, but their modes of presentation differed since Dry Conceptualism was usually presented as black letters on a white background while Wet conceptualism was polychromic. Both forms considered consumer society’s misuse of language as a call to arms. However, Wet conceptualism went one step further in understanding language’s innate complicity with patriarchy, racism, and sexism. While Dry conceptualism was Eurocentric and patriarchal, Wet Conceptualism stresses a global, post-humanist outlook. Dry conceptual art was withdrawn, restrained, and cold while Wet Conceptualism is engaged, hot, and vital. Dry conceptualism stressed an economy of means as a reductivist attitude which was connected to Minimalism while wet conceptualism engaged with a more maximalist and anarchic approach to everyday life. Instead of following the edicts of German Idealism, Wet conceptualism found its precedents in materialism. In most instances, Dry Conceptualism abhorred what it referred to as “stupid painting” because of its retinality: the assumption, based on many statements of Marcel Duchamp’s that painting was absorbed with the sensual rather than the rational which pertained to the grey matter of the brain. Wet Conceptualism embraces the wet painterly surface as a space to investigate the conceptual basis of emotions, feelings, and affect which have become important in the new economy of emojis and Big Data. In other words, Wet Conceptualism is a new methodology of artistic hermeneutics or interpretation conceived for its time. Dry conceptualism is about a binary dichotomous viewpoint and stresses gestalt psychology while wet conceptualism is more non-binary and engaged with perception in action or what are called affordances. Finally, Wet Conceptual Art is linked to the concept of wetware used to describe neural-based computational systems because they are full of salt water whereas dry or crunchy are terms used to describe artificial intelligence run by digital computers.