New materials are one of the great afflictions of contemporary art. Some artists confuse new materials with new ideas. There is nothing worse than seeing art that wallows in gaudy baubles. By and large most artists who are attracted to these materials are the ones who lack the stringency of mind that would enable them to use the materials well. It takes a good artist to use new materials and make them into a work of art. The danger is, I think, in making the physicality of the materials so important that it becomes the idea of the work (another kind of expressionism).
Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”
LeWitt wrote that in 1967 for Artforum. By 1969 he'd pared down his ideas into 35 Sentences on Conceptual Art:
What were these "new materials" that afflicted contemporary art? Even I was too young in 1967 to know first hand but I'd guess he meant some of the plastics developed for the space age during the '60s. But by "materials" did he also mean technologies like those Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), founded in 1966, encouraged artists to adopt with the help of engineers. I don't think many artists who were considered to be conceptual at the time participated in EAT activities. That would have been too formalist. And so what is "too formalist" these days and why is formalism a bad thing?
Some of the questions that crop up over new media were asked about Conceptual Art in the 'sixties and 'seventies and the answers were as varied as the artists who were swept up under that nebulous title. Take one from column Kossuth and one from column LeWitt then mix them with a little Art & Language. Everyone had an answer though everyone seemed to have a different answer.
Who is posing questions now and who proposes answers?
How about the Center for Land Use Interpretation:
The late '60s was a period with a great deal of interest in adapting scientific theory for art purposes. What happened? Here's one example:
"All Systems Go: Recovering Jack Burnham's 'Systems Aesthetics' by Luke Skrebowski