’The present day world is comparable to a fission reactor the design of which is unknown but which is overheating and out of control.’
(John Latham, 1981)
A World View: John Latham; Time Base Roller, 1972, Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London (1 March 2017 – 21 May 2017)
Image © Luke Hayes
John Latham (1921-2006) has been heralded the Pioneer of Conceptual Art and has been a great influence to many of his peers and younger generations of artists. This spring, the Serpentine hosts a new exhibition in conjunction with another exhibition, Flat Time House, that encompasses a prolific selection of sculpture, installation, painting, film, land art, engineering, found-object assemblage, performance and the artist’s theoretical writings.
Latham spent a lifetime developed a theory of time called,’flat time’ which expanded over and beyond human and social perception. He saw the artist holding up a mirror to society: an individual whose dissent from the norm could lead to a profound reconfiguration of reality as we know it, which can be viewed clearly in his work.
A World View: John Latham; Speak, 1962, Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London (1 March 2017 – 21 May 2017) Image © Luke Hayes
Latham has been associated with several national and international artistic movements, including the first phase of conceptual art in the 1960s. He was an important contributor to the Destruction in Art Symposium of 1966, and also a co-founding member of the Artist Placement Group APG (1966-89), along with Barbara Steveni, Jeffrey Shaw, David Hall, Anna Ridley and Barry Flanagan, an initiative that was to expand the reach of art and artists into wider society through organisations of all kinds, at all levels and on a basis equivalent to any other specialist.
The Serpentine exhibition will span Latham’s career to include the artist’s iconic spray and roller paintings; his one-second drawings; films such as Erth (1971) and Latham’s monumental work, time Sisters (1976) from his Scottish Office placement with APG.
Over the course of the exhibition, Flat Time House, John Latham’s studio home in Peckham, south London, has opened to the public, hosting a programme of workshops and events. In 2003, Latham declared Flat Time House a living sculpture. Since 2008, it has been a gallery, residency space and centre for experimental events and research into Flat Time. It is also home to the John Latham archive.
A World View: John Latham; The N-U Niddrie Heart, no. 10, 11, 17, 36, 24, 23, 1991; Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London (1 March 2017 – 21 May 2017); Image © Luke Hayes
This show proposes Latham as a reference for artists, revealing how his concepts of time, language and society resonate today.
In keeping with the Serpentine Gallery survey, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery exhibition brings together contemporary artists — Tania Bruguera, Douglas Gordon, Laure Prouvost, Cally Spooner — these works have an affinity with Latham’s ideas. This show proposes Latham as an ’open toolbox’ for artists, revealing how his concepts of time, language and society resonate today.
A catalogue to accompany both exhibitions will feature contributions from artists who worked with, or have been influenced by, Latham, including Rita Donagh, Anish Kapoor, Liam Gillick, Richard Hamilton, Yoko Ono, Pedro Reyes and Barbara Steveni, as well as the four artists featuring in Speak.
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London W2 2AR
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