CAC Malaga presents the exhibition Art and Language, a journey through the work of this artists’ collective who have occupied an essential place in contemporary creation since mid-1960s. It brings together a total of 21 pieces which offer a fresh reading of the whole of their work from the origins to the most recent manifestations, the ones we have focused on here. The exhibition has been sponsored by Monarch Scheduled.
The name Art & Language was first used in 1968 to describe the collaborative work of a group of artists: Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin and Harold Hurrell. In May 1969 they started publishing a magazine titled Art-Language and subtitled Journal of Conceptual Art, the first one in naming and analysing the Conceptual Art. They were later joined by Mel Ramsen, Joseph Kosuth and Charles Harrison, among others, and by the mid-1970s the group totalled around 30. From 1976 it consisted solely of the artists Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, in addition to the art historian Charles Harrison.
Art & Language played a fundamental role in the birth of Conceptual Art, a tendency which used different forms to propose a new concept of the work of art: giving pride of place to the idea over its plastic expression, i.e., over the art object. Since its inception the group has represented the more analytical side of Conceptualism, indebted to Anglo-Saxon analytical philosophy and Marxist sociology and greatly influenced by the social and political atmosphere of the time.
This cooperative project allowed its members to carry out an investigation into social, philosophical and psychological stereotypes about art and the artist and to question, through their collective viewpoint, the mythified, individualistic conception that had reigned until then. Art & Language openly proclaimed the need to find “instruments to rediscover and preserve the dialectical character of modernism.
This exhibition at CAC Málaga includes early works done before they were formally constituted as a group; series of paintings from the eighties and nineties which, with humour and irony, question the traditional pictorial genres; and the series of life-size sculptures and furniture installations which they began to work on in 1997.
Since their beginnings they have done a critical and theoretical exercise in artistic practice. At first they concentrated on linguistic investigation, working in the form of publications, texts and indices. The works in the exhibition from this period are Untitled Painting (1965), Map of Itself (1967) and Map of the Pacific Ocean, West of Oahu (1967).
From the mid seventies, Art & Language focused on a criticism of the history and nature of the pictorial, analysed from their own practice, though not overlooking the aesthetic values inherent to the discipline. Such is the case of the portraits of Lenin (1980) and works like Hostage LXXIX (1990), both on show here.
Today, Art & Language are working to keep their anti-establishment critical discourse active. Among their notable recent works are the life-size structures and installations that reproduce inhabited spaces, such as Sighs Trapped by Liars 373-391, 413-507, an installation that was presented at Documenta X in Kassel in 1997. Once again, the work brings out their interest in an analysis of the linguistic and the pictorial.
Art & Language have been included in many international exhibitions such as Documenta in 1972, 1982 and 1997. They have also had a number of retrospectives in recent years, at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, PS1 in New York, and the Musée dart moderne de Lille.