Language was an important tool for Conceptual artists in the 1960s. Many used language in place of more traditional materials like brushes and canvas, and words played a primary role in their emphasis on ideas over visual forms. Though text had been used in art long before this, artists like Joseph Kosuth were among the first to give words such a central role.

Conceptual artists also used language in the form of instructions detailing how an artwork should be made. Sol LeWitt was among the principal originators of this strategy, which his peers widely embraced. Arguing that ideas alone can be art, he allowed for a measure of separation between the artist and the physical execution of his or her artwork. His work exemplifies this: he would generate ideas for artworks and write instructions on how to make them, which other people—sometimes whole teams working days or weeks—would then carry out.

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