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Art & Language (Active since 1967)
Art & Language (Active since 1967)
Art & Language (Active since 1967)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Art & Language (Active since 1967)

Painting-Sculpture

Details
Art & Language (Active since 1967)
Painting-Sculpture
each: signed and dated twice ‘T. Atkinson 1966 M. Baldwin 1966’ (on the reverse)
alkyd paint on masonite, in two parts
each: 89 x 58cm.
Executed in 1966
Provenance
Mulier Mulier Gallery, Knokke.
Acquired from the above by the previous owner.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Exhibited
Knokke, Mulier Mulier Gallery, Art & Language: Conceptual Art from 1965 to 1974, 1997.
Barcelona, Fundacío Antoni Tàpies, Art & Language in Practice, 1999, nos. 36a, 36b (illustrated in colour, p. 148).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lisa Snijders
Lisa Snijders

Lot Essay

Consisting of two inscrutable panes of grey, Painting-Sculpture, 1966, is a rare painted example of Art & Language’s radical investigation into the definition of art. Signed by Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin, the founding members of Art & Language, this work is one of the earliest dictums created by a group whose examination of the definitions, conventions and institutions of the art would later write the very theory of post-war and contemporary art. A cerebral proposition of Conceptual Art, Painting-Sculpture finds its equivalents in notable museum collections, with other early works held in the collection of Tate, London – Untitled Painting, 1965; and in the MACBA, Barcelona – 100% Abstract, 1967; while a similar work, dating to the same period, was a highlight of Tate Modern’s exhibition, Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979, in 2016.
Identical in form and colour, each pane is alternatively captioned, in official block capitals which refute all argument, with the two practices of fine art – painting and sculpture. Thus a conundrum is set up: the viewer is confronted by two objects which patently appear the same, yet which resolutely insist on their difference from one other. Inspired by the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, whose urinal asserted it was a Fountain, 1917, Painting-Sculpture draws on the tradition of the bizarre non sequitur favoured by the Surrealists. Yet Art & Language go further, challenging not only the confines of what can be termed an art object, but the internal logic of art categories. What defines a painting, as opposed to a sculpture? How minimal can that difference be? Is the fact the artist said so enough to make it true? Mel Ramsden, another Art & Language collaborator, described, ‘…playing with language is playing with a big machine. And playing with language in the context of a tradition of painting is taking on a legacy of powerful descriptions’ (M. Baldwin, C. Harrison and M. Ramsden, ‘On Painting’, in Tate Papers, no. 1, Spring 2004).
For Art & Language, Conceptual Art was an art of describing: in light of the debates and arguments raging around modern art in the 1950s and 1960s, the artists decided to ‘put the writing on the wall’, exhibiting the texts which had grown more important than the visual forms. As their practice developed, these descriptions grew discursive, complex and elaborate, while the physical art object disappeared – most famously, perhaps, at the presentation of Index 01, 1972, at Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany, where the group exhibited indexes and cross-references of eight filing cabinets filled with their writings. ‘Conceptual art insinuates text,’ explained Charles Harrison, who also belonged to the group, ‘…so as to make painting and text fight it out for the status of ‘origin’’ (M. Baldwin, C. Harrison and M. Ramsden, ‘On Painting’, in Tate Papers, no. 1, Spring 2004). Together with their sometime American collaborator, Joseph Kosuth, who in the same year, 1966, began his series Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), Art & Language’s pioneering analytical approach to aesthetic conventions continues to inform the strategies of a younger generation of artists. Painting-Sculpture, at once a radical proposition and an elegant conundrum, is a testament of a turning point in twentieth-century art.

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