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28 October 2014

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Paying homage to Art and Language revolutionaries

Homes From Homes 1, by Art and Language
Homes From Homes 1, courtesy of Lisson Gallery and Art and Language
We celebrate Terry Atkinson, one of the founders of the revolutionary Art and Language group, who has now settled in Leamington.

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In 2003, the Royal Pump Rooms staged an exhibition of Terry Atkinson's work, which inspired me to research and share the important work of the Art and Language group, of which Terry Atkinson was a founder member.

Local connections

 Yellow Axe Head Enola Gay Mute by Terry Atkinson
Yellow Axe Head from the Enola Gay series by Terry Atkinson
Art and Language was a very important group in the development of conceptual art and remain an influence on the theory and practice of art.

It is with pride that I realised, through the Pump Rooms exhibition, that Terry Atkinson was a local lad, from Leamington.

The founders of the group, Terry Atkinson, Michael Baldwin, David Bainbridge and Harold Hurrell, worked collaboratively around 1966-67, when a number of them were based in the Coventry School of Art.

Coventry School of Art

 Sketch of Coventry School of Art
Sketch of the proposed Coventry School of Art in 1869
The Coventry School of Art was founded in 1843. The school shot into the limelight in the 1960s, for its innovative design technology and conceptual art, at the time Art and Language was formed.

During that decade, the neighbouring Herbert Art Gallery and Museum also became renowned for its cutting-edge exhibitions, attracting national and international artists.

The art school is now part of Coventry University and teaches across five broad subject areas - Communication, Culture and Media, Industrial Design, Information Design, Performing Arts and Visual Arts.

Art and Language

 Lovely Slang V by Art and Language
Detail of Lovely Slang V, courtesy of Lisson Gallery and Art and Language
The name Art and Language was devised in 1968 as the collective name under which the founders worked. It also became the title of a conceptual art journal.

The Art and Language crew increased between 1969 and 1970 as Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, Joseph Kosuth and Charles Harrison joined the group.

Art and Language developed the critical and conceptual work started by Duchamp (amongst others). As the name suggests, writing and debate were always as important to the group as visual or physical art production.

To assist this strand of their work the Art and Language Press was founded by Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin in association with David Bainbridge and Harold Hurrell in 1968.

Their publications, such as the Art and Language journal, were key to their exploration and communication of ideas.

The group pursued the idea that art practice should be thoroughly theorised, separating it from craft or merely aesthetic concerns.

Gaining Influence

 Detail of Homes From Homes 1 by Art and Language
Detail of Homes From Homes 1, courtesy of Lisson Gallery and Art and Language
By the mid-1970s, Art and Language had become a force to be reckoned with, producing critical conceptual art in the form of publications, indexes, records, texts, performances and paintings.

Art and Language - in its various forms - has been included in many international exhibitions including the Documenta exhibitions of 1972, 1982 and 1997.

There have also been several retrospectives in recent years, at the Jeu de Paume, Paris in 1993, PS1, New York in 1999 and at the Musee D'Art Moderne in Lille in 2001.

A publication called "Essays on Art and Language" was published in 2001 and there are a number of the group's works in current exhibitions, proving interest in the group is still very much alive.

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