Art & Language

Art & Language is a conceptual artists' collaboration that has undergone many changes since it was created in the late 1960s. The group was founded by artists who shared a common desire to combine intellectual ideas and concerns with the creation of art. The first issue of the group's journal, Art-Language, was published in November 1969 in Chipping Norton in England, and was an important influence on conceptual art in the United States and the United Kingdom.[1]

First years

The Art & Language group was founded around 1967 in the United Kingdom by Terry Atkinson (b. 1939), David Bainbridge (b. 1941), Michael Baldwin (b. 1945) and Harold Hurrell (b. 1940).[2] These four artists began their collaboration around 1966 while they were art teachers in Coventry. The name of the group was derived from their journal, Art-Language The Journal of conceptual art, originally created as a work conversation in 1966. The group was critical of what was considered mainstream modern art practices at the time. In their work conversations, they created conceptual art as part of their discussions.[3]

Between 1968 and 1982, the group grew to nearly fifty people. Among the first to join were critic and art historian, Charles Harrison, and artist Mel Ramsden,.[4] In the early 1970s, individuals including Ian Burn, Michael Corris, Preston Heller, Graham Howard, Joseph Kosuth, Andrew Menard, and Terry Smith joined the group. Two collaborators from Coventry, Philip Pilkington and David Rushton, followed. The relative degree of anonymity held within the group continues to have historical significance in the art community. Due to an uncertainty of the exact member lists, it is hard to know unequivocally not only who all of the contributors were but also what their exact contributions were.

The first issue of Art-Language The Journal of conceptual art[5](Volume 1, Number 1, May 1969) is subtitled The Journal of Conceptual Art. By the second issue (Volume 1, Number 2, February 1970), it became clear that there were conceptual art pieces and conceptual artists for whom and to whom the journal did not speak. In order to better encompass the purpose of the journal, the title was abandoned. Art-Language had, however, brought to light the beginning of a new art movement. It was the first imprint to identify a public entity called Conceptual art. The journal was the first of its kind to serve the theoretical and conversational interests of a community of artists and critics, who were also its producers and users. While that community was far from a unanimous agreement as to how to define the nature of conceptual art, the editors and most of its historic contributors shared similar opinions about other art movements. Conceptual art was critical of modernism for its bureaucracy and its historicism, and of minimalism for its philosophical conservatism. The practice of conceptual art, especially in its early years of origin, was primarily based on theory, and its form, predominately textual.

As the distribution of the journal and the teaching practices of the editors and others contributors expanded, the conversation grew to include more people. In England, by 1971, artists and critics including Charles Harrison, Philip Pilkington, David Rushton, Lynn Lemaster, Sandra Harrison, Graham Howard and Paul Wood had joined. Around the same time in New York, Michael Corris joined, followed by Paula Ramsden, Mayo Thompson, Christine Kozlov, Preston Heller, Andrew Menard and Kathryn Bigelow.

The name "Art & Language" remained precarious due to the various interpretations of both the many pieces of art and the purpose of the group. Its significance, or instrumentality, varied from person to person, alliance to alliance, discourse to discourse, and from those in New York who produced The Fox (1974–1976), for example, to those engaged in music projects and those who continued the Journal's edition. There was disagreement among members, and by 1976, there was a growing sense of divide that eventually led to competing individualities and varied concerns.

Throughout the 1970s, Art & Language dealt with questions about art production and attempted a shift from conventional "nonlinguistic" forms of art, such as painting and sculpture, to more theoretically text-based works. The group often took argumentative positions against such prevailing views of critics like Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried.[6] The Art & Language group that exhibited in the international Documenta 5 exhibitions of 1972 included Atkinson, Bainbridge, Baldwin, Hurrell, Pilkington, Rushton, and Joseph Kosuth, the American editor of Art-Language.[7] The work consisted of a filing system of material published and circulated by Art & Language members.[8]

New York Art and Language

Burn and Ramsden co-founded The Society for Theoretical Art and Analysis in New York in the late 1960s. They joined Art & Language in 1970–71.[9] New York Art & Language became fragmented after 1975 because of disagreements concerning principles of collaboration.[10] Karl Beveridge and Carol Condé, who had been peripheral members of the group in New York, returned to Canada where they worked with trade unions and community groups. In 1977, Ian Burn returned to Australia and Mel Ramsden to the United Kingdom.

Late 1970s

By the end of the 1970s, the group was essentially reduced to Baldwin, Harrison, and Ramsden with the occasional participation of Mayo Thompson and his group Red Crayola.[11][12] The political analysis and development within the group resulted in several members leaving the group to work in more activist-oriented political occupations.[13] Ian Burn returned to Australia, joining Ian Milliss, a conceptual artist who had begun work with trade unions in the early 1970s, in becoming active in Union Media Services, a design studio for social and community initiatives and the development of trade unions.[14][15] Other members from the United Kingdom drifted off into a variety of creative, academic and sometimes "politicized" activities.

At the beginning of the 1970s, there were about thirty members. The Art & Language group emphasized the use of language on the theory that language is the basis from which ideas and concepts are built. Their philosophy was that language permits index words which appear, disappear, and for some even persist, thus allowing viewers and artists alike to analyze the evolution of a word through the proposal of different definitions.

Exhibitions and awards

Awards and critics

In 1986, Art & Language was nominated for the Turner Prize. In 1999, Art & Language exhibited at PS1 MoMA in New York, with a major installation entitled The Artist Out of Work.[16] This was a recollection of Art & Language's dialogical and other practices, curated by Michael Corris and Neil Powell. This exhibition closely followed the revisionist exhibition of Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin at the Queens Museum of Art, also in New York. The Art & Language 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 from 1968 to 1972. In a negative appraisal of the exhibition, art critic Jerry Saltz wrote, "A quarter century ago, 'Art & Language' forged an important link in the genealogy of conceptual art, but next efforts have been so self-sufficient and obscure that their work is now virtually irrelevant."[17]

Permanent collections

Other exhibits around the world include the works of Atkinson and Baldwin (working as Art & Language) held in the collection of the Tate in the United Kingdom.[18] Papers and works relating to "New York Art & Language" are held at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

In March 2011, Philippe Méaille loaned 800 artworks of the Art & Language collective to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.[19] In June 2015, the Conseil départemental de Maine-et-Loire and Philippe Méaille signed a long term lease agreement for the Château de Montsoreau to promote contemporary art in the Loire Valley.

Selected exhibitions

Selected exhibitions[20][21][22]
Year Exhibition
  • Hardware Show – Architectural Association, London.
  • Dematerialisation Show – Ikon Gallery, London.
  • VAT 68 – The Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry.
  • Art & Language – Pinacotheca Gallery, Melbourne.
  • The Air-Conditioning Show – Visual Arts Gallery, New York.
  • Art & Language – Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
  • Art & Language – Galleria Sperone, Torino.
  • Tape Show: Exhibition of Lectures – Dain Gallery, New York.
  • Questionnaire – Galleria Daniel Templon, Milano.
  • The Art & Language Institute – Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
  • Documenta Memorandum – Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne.
  • Analytical Art – Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris
  • Index 002 Bxal – John Weber Gallery, New York.
  • Art & Language – Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne.
  • Art & Language – Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Annotations – Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
  • Art & Language – Galleria Sperone, TurinGalerie Paul Maenz, Cologne.
  • Art & Language – Bischofberger Gallery, Zürich.
  • Art & Language – Galleria Schema, Florence.
  • Art & Language – Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Art & Language – Galerie MTL, Brussels.
  • Art & Language – Studentski Kulturni Centar, Belgrade.
  • Art & Language New York <—> Australia – Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Art & Language – Foksal Gallery, Warsaw.
  • Dialectical Materialism – Galleria Schema, Florence.
  • Art & Language – Galerie Ghislain Mollet-Viéville, Paris.
  • Art & Language – Galerie MTL, Brussels.
  • ‘Piggy-Cur-Perfect’ – Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland.
  • Music-Language – John Weber Gallery, New York.
  • Music-Language – Galerie Eric Fabre, Paris.
  • Art & Language – Museum of Modern Art, Oxford.
  • 10 Posters: Illustrations for Art-Language – Robert Self Gallery, London.
  • Music-Language – Galleria Lia Rumma, Rome et Naples.
  • Flags for Organisations – Cultureel Informatief Centrum, Ghent.
  • Flags for Organisations – Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Ils donnent leur sang ; donnez votre travail – Galerie Eric Fabre, Paris.
  • Portraits of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock, University Gallery, Leeds.
  • Portraits of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock, Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Portraits of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.
  • Portraits of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock – Centre d'art contemporain, Genève.
  • Gustave Courbet "Burial at Ornans" Expressing – Galerie Eric Fabre, Paris.
  • Index : Studio at 3 Wesley Place Painted by Mouth – De Veeshal, Middelburg.
  • Art & Language retrospective – Musée d'Art Moderne, Toulon.
  • Index : Studio at 3 Wesley Place I, II, III, IV – Gewald, Ghent.
  • Confessions : Incidents in a Museum – Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Art & Language : The Paintings – Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.
  • Hostages XXIV-XXXV – Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
  • Art & Language – Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris.
  • Art & Language and Luhmann – Kunstraum, Vienna.
  • Sighs Trapped by Liars – Galerie de Paris, Paris.
  • Art & Language in Practice – Fundacio Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona.
  • Cinco ensayos – Galerià Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid.
  • The Artist out of Work : Art & Language 1972–1981 – P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York.
  • Art & Language & Luhmann No.2 – ZKM, Karlsruhe.
  • Too Dark to Read : Motifs Rétrospectifs – Musée d'art moderne de Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq.
  • Art & Language – Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich.
  • Art & Language – CAC Màlaga, Màlaga.
  • Hard to Say When – Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Il ne reste qu'à chanter – Galerie de l'Erban, Nantes (Miroirs, 1965, Karaoke, 1975–2005) et
  • Il ne reste qu'à chanter – Château de la Bainerie (travaux 1965–2005), Tiercé.
  • Brouillages/Blurrings – Galerie Taddeus Ropac, Paris.
  • Art & Language – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki.
  • Portraits and a Dream – Lisson Gallery, London.
  • Art & Language – Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.
  • Badges – Mulier Mulier Gallery, Knokke.
  • Letters to the Red Krayola – Kadel Wilborn Gallery, Düsseldorf.
  • Art & Language – Museum Dhont-Dhaenens, Deurle.
  • Art & Language – Garage Cosmos, Brussels.
  • Art & Language Uncompleted : The Philippe Méaille Collection – MACBA, Barcelona.
  • Nobody Spoke – Lisson Gallery, London.

Selected group exhibitions

Selected group exhibitions[23][24][25]
Year Exhibition
  • Language II – Dwan Gallery, London.
  • March – catalogue-exposition, Seth Siegelaub, New York.
  • Conceptual Art And Conceptual Aspects – New York Cultural Center, New York.
  • Information – Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Idea Structures – Camden Art Centre, London.
  • The British Avant-Garde – New York Cultural Center, New York.
  • Documenta 5 – Museum Friedericianum, Kassel.
  • The New Art – Hayward Gallery, London.
  • Einige Frühe Beispiele Konzeptuelle Kunst Analytischen Charakters – Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne.
  • Contemporanea – Rome.
  • Projekt'74 – Cologne.
  • Kunst über Kunst – Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne.
  • Drawing Now, Museum of Modern Art – New York.
  • Biennale di Venezia – Venice.
  • Un Certain Art Anglais – Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris.
  • Kunst in Europa na 68 – Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent.
  • British Art of the Twentieth Century: The Modern Movement – Royal Academy, London.
  • The Situationists International, 1957–1972 – Musée National d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.
  • L'art conceptuel, une perspective – Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris; Fundación Caja de Prensiones, Madrid; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg.
  • Repetición/Transformación – Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
  • Toponimías (8) : ocho ideas del espacio – Fundación La Caixa, Madrid.
  • Reconsidering the Object of Art, 1965–1975 – Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
  • Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin 1950s–1980s – Queens Museum of Art, New York.
  • Iconoclash – Center for Art and Media (ZKM), Karlsruhe.
  • Biennale di Venezia – Venice.
  • Before the End (The Last Painting Show) – Swiss Institute, New York.
  • Collective Creativity – Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel.
  • Le Printemps de Septembre à Toulouse – Broken Lines – Toulouse.
  • Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images – Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock'n Roll since 1967 – Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
  • Vides. Une rétrospective – Musée National d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors, Pop Music as Subject of Visual Art – Kunsthaus, Graz.
  • Algunas Obras A Ler – Collection Eric Fabre – Berardo Museum, Lisbon.
  • Seconde main, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris/ARC, Paris.
  • Erre, Variations Labyrinthiques – Musée National d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz.
  • Materialising 'Six Years': Lucy Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art – Brooklyn museum, New York.
  • As if it could . Works and Documents from the Herbert Foundation – Herbert Foundation, Ghent.
  • Propanganda für die Wirklichkeit – Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen.
  • Critical Machines, American University, Beyrouth.
  • Art & Language

Theoretical installations

Art & Language and the Jackson Pollock Bar collaborated for the first time in January 1995, during the "Art & Language & Luhmann" symposium, organized by the Contemporary Social Considerations Institute (Institut für Sozial Gegenwartsfragen) of Freiburg. The 3-day symposium saw the intervention of speakers including Catherine David, who prepared the Documenta X, and Peter Weibl, artist and curator. There was also a theoretical installation of an Art & Language text produced in playback by the Jackson Pollock Bar.[26] The installation was interpreted by five German actors playing the roles of Jack Tworkow, Philip Guston, Harold Rosenberg, Robert Motherwell and Ad Reinhardt. Using lip sync, the actors used pre-recorded text for a "New Conceptual" conversation.[27] Ever since this collaboration, each new Art & Language exhibition has been joined by a Jackson Pollock Bar theoretical installation.[28][29]

Past members and associates


  1. "Art & Language | Artists | Lisson Gallery". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  2. Neil Mulholland, The Cultural Devolution: art in Britain in the late twentieth century, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003, p165. ISBN 0-7546-0392-X
  3. "Art & Language | Tate". Tate Etc. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  4. Charles Green, The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism, UNSW Press, 2001, p47. ISBN 0-86840-588-4
  5. "Art & Language". Archived from the original on 23 January 2019. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  6. "Art & Language". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  7. Guasch, Anna María (11 February 2011). Arte y archivo, 1920-2010: Genealogías, tipologías y discontinuidades (in Spanish). Ediciones AKAL. ISBN 9788446038146.
  8. Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Trish Cashen, Hazel Gardiner, Digital Visual Culture: Theory and Practice, Intellect Books, 2009, p104. ISBN 1-84150-248-0
  9. "Des mondes à penser pour les crocodiles soumis" (in French). 30 April 2002. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  10. Charles Green, The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism, UNSW Press, 2001, p48. ISBN 0-86840-588-4
  11. "U B U W E B :: Art & Language". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  12. Young, Rob (2006). Rough Trade. Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 9781904772477.
  13. "Art & Language: Illustrations for Art-Language" (PDF). CCCOD. September 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  14. "Annecdotes about Anonymity by Ian Milliss". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  15. Baumflek, David (July 2013). "Peripheral Visions: The Working Life of Ian Burn" (PDF). The Ivory Tower.
  16. "MoMA PS1: Exhibitions: The Artist Out of Work: Art & Language 1972–1981". Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  17. Jerry Saltz, Seeing out loud: the Voice art columns, fall 1998-winter 2003, Geoffrey Young, 2003, p293. ISBN 1-930589-17-4
  18. Tate. "Art & Language (Michael Baldwin, born 1945; Mel Ramsden, born 1944)". Tate.
  19. Palau, Maria. "Un tresor al Macba - 30 març 2011". El Punt Avui.
  20. Pacquement, Alfred; Wood, Paul (October 1993). Art & Language (1st ed.). Paris: Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. pp. 149–151. ISBN 2-908901-21-8.
  21. Jackson, Matthew Jesse; Chaudruc, Marie-Caroline (April 2018). Art & Language: Reality (Dark) Fragments (Light), The Philippe Méaille Collection (1st ed.). Montsoreau: Château de Montsoreau - Museum of Contemporary Art. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-2-9557917-2-1.
  22. Debbaut, Jan; Roberts, John (November 1987). Art & Language: The Paintings (1st ed.). Belgium: Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. pp. 92–93.
  23. Pacquement, Alfred; Wood, Paul (October 1993). Art & Language (1st ed.). Paris: Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. pp. 150–151. ISBN 2-908901-21-8.
  24. Jackson, Matthew Jesse; Chaudruc, Marie-Caroline (April 2018). Art & Language: Reality (Dark) Fragments (Light), The Philippe Méaille Collection (1st ed.). Montsoreau: Château de Montsoreau - Museum of Contemporary Art. p. 173. ISBN 978-2-9557917-2-1.
  25. Debbaut, Jan; Roberts, John (November 1987). Art & Language: The Paintings (1st ed.). Belgium: Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. p. 93.
  26. "Jackson Pollock Bar: Pictures at an Exhibition - Proposals - Curatorial Intensive - Independent Curators International". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  27. Harrison, Charles (8 August 2003). Conceptual Art and Painting: Further Essays on Art & Language. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262582407.
  28. "Jackson Pollock Bar | ZKM". Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  29. "Art & Language en práctica". Fundació Antoni Tàpies (in Spanish). Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  30. Nicolas Rapold, "Interview: Kathryn Bigelow Goes Where the Action Is," The Village Voice, 23 June 2009. Access date: 27 June 2009.
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