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Zombie Conceptualism: The Next Art World Trend?

06/09/2014 06:28 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2014
  • John Seed Professor of Art and Art History, Mt. San Jacinto College

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On April 3 of this year, critic Walter Robinson first identified and blogged about "Zombie Formalism," a multi-various and market-savvy approach that he sees as characterizing a recent clustering of artworks that have proved popular with art world speculator/flippers. I'm not sure if Robinson thinks the collectors or the artists are the zombies that his new ism refers to, but I find the name he chose for this phenomenon grimly apt.

"Zombie Formalism" tends to be easy to understand and it favors novelty and off-hand effects and images: you can be newly "undead" and still get it. Because of its air of easy-going warmed-overness, "Zombie Formalism" seems to have some attitudes in common with "New Casualism," a related set of trends in abstract painting.

What would happen -- I have wondered -- if some of the deadpan hipster apathy of "Zombie Formalism," and also some of its grim self-confidence, were to hybridize with Conceptualism? Could "Zombie Conceptualism" be next?

Would we get effortless, tossed-off conceptual jokes designed to entertain the "undead?" It seems like we already have "Zombie Performance," what with scrotums being nailed to Red Square and an artist eating his own hip.

I'm thinking that "Zombie Conceptualism," might just take some of the forms and directions you see pictured below...

Zombie Conceptualism

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Badly Restored Jesus-ccino, Cocoa on latte foam, approx. 3 inches (diameter)

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Homage to Magritte, Vinyl letters on door, 78 x 30 inches

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CASH FOR YOUR ABEX!, inkjet print on copy paper on mailbox, 8 ½ x 11 inches

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My MFA Show, Alphabet soup letters on cream of tomato, 6 1/8 inches (diameter)

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Whatever, Finger-graffiti on fogged window, dimensions variable

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Low Budget Jenny Holzer, toe-writing in wet beach sand, 26 x 59 ¾ inches

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All Roads Lead to Art Basel, Wood-burned letters on Cedar, 4 1/4 x 17 1/2 inches