Art & Language  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Art & Language is a shifting collaboration among conceptual artists that has undergone many changes since its inception in the late 1960s. Their early work, as well as their journal Art-Language, first published in 1969, is regarded as an important influence on much conceptual art both in the United Kingdom and in the United States.


Early years

The Art & Language group was founded in 1967/8 in the United Kingdom by artists Terry Atkinson (b. 1939), David Bainbridge (b. 1941), Michael Baldwin (b. 1945) and Harold Hurrell (b. 1940), four artists who began collaborating around 1966 while teaching art in Coventry. The name of the group was derived from their journal Art-Language, which existed as a work in conversation as early as 1966. Charles Harrison and Mel Ramsden joined the group in 1970, and between 1968 and 1982 up to 50 people were associated with the group. Others involved with the group from the early 1970s included Ian Burn, Michael Corris, Preston Heller, Graham Howard, Joseph Kosuth, Andrew Menard, Terry Smith and from Coventry Philip Pilkington and David Rushton.

Throughout the 1970s, Art & Language dealt with questions surrounding art production, and attempted a shift from the conventional "non-Linguistic" forms of art like painting and sculpture to more theoretically based works. The group often took up argumentative positions against such prevailing views of critics like Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried.

The Art & Language group that exhibited in the international Documenta exhibitions of 1972 included Atkinson, Bainbridge, Baldwin, Hurrell, Pilkington and Rushton and the then America editor of Art-Language Joseph Kosuth. The work consisted of a filing system of material published and circulated by Art & Language members.

New York Art & Language

Burn and Ramsden co-founded The Society for Theoretical Art and Analysis in New York in the late 1960s. New York Art & Language fragmented after 1975 because of disagreements over the underlying principles of collaboration. Karl Beveridge and Carol Condé who had been peripheral members in New York, returned to Canada where they worked with trade unions and community groups.

Late 1970s

By the end of the 1970s the group was essentially reduced to Baldwin, Harrison and Ramsden. The political analysis that developed within the group resulted in many members leaving to work in more activist political occupations. Ian Burn and Terry Smith returned to Australia where they joined forces with Ian Milliss, a conceptual artist who had begun working with trade unions in the early 1970s, to set up Union Media Services, a design studio specialising in social marketing and community and trade union based art initiatives. Other UK members drifted off into a variety of creative, academic and sometimes "politicised" occupations.

Exhibtions and awards

In 1986, the remnants of the group were nominated for the Turner Prize.

In 1999 Art and Language exhibited at PS1 MoMA, NY with a major installation entitled "The Artist Out of Work". This was a re-collection of their dialogical and other practices curated by Michael Corris and Neil Powell. This exhibition followed closely on from the revisionist:'Global Conceptualism:Points of Origin', at the Queens Museum of Art also in New York. The A+L show at PS1 offered an alternative account of the antecedents and legacy of 'classic' Conceptual Art and reinforced a transatlantic rather than nationalistic version of events 1968-72. In a negative appraisal of the exhibition Jerry Saltz wrote, "A quarter century ago, Art & Language forged an important link in the genealogy of conceptual art, but subsequent efforts have been so self-engrandizing and arcane that their work is now virtually irrelevant."

The work of Atkinson and Baldwin (working as Art & Language) is held in the collection of the Tate.

Past Members & Associates

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Art & Language" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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