John Latham: Flat Time

As a pioneer of British conceptual art, John Latham (1921-2006) has exerted a powerful and lasting influence, not only on his peers but on generations of younger artists. Opening this spring at the Serpentine, London, is a new season celebrating the artist’s diverse practice, achievements and overall philosophy. Beginning with a special exhibition, A World View, the programme showcases key examples of Latham’s extraordinary output including sculpture, installation, painting, film, land art, engineering, found-object assemblage, performance and theoretical writing. An important part of Latham’s practice was his proposed shift towards a time-based cosmology of events, away from a space-based framework of objects.

In the artist’s eyes, ‘flat time’ expands across and beyond individual disciplines, aligning social, economic, political, psychological and physical structures. He saw the artist as holding up a mirror to society: an individual whose dissent from the norm could lead to a profound reconfiguration of reality. The exhibition at Serpentine highlights Latham’s ideology through a selection of works that span his entire career: his iconic spray and roller paintings; onesecond drawings; the film piece Erth (1971); and Five Sisters (1976). To accompany the show, the artist’s studio home in Peckham, Flat Time House, is open to the public, and is host to various workshops and key events. The house has been used as a gallery, residency space, and centre for research into Flat Time since Latham declared it a living sculpture in 2003. The John Latham archive is also housed here.

A key figure in the art world since the late 1940s, Latham has been associated with several national and international artistic movements, including the first phase of conceptual art in the 1960s. He was an essential 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. The APG initiative set out 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.

A World View is part of Serpentine’s John Latham season. Speak, featuring Tania Bruguera, Douglas Gordon, Laure Prouvost and Cally Spooner, runs in dialogue with this show.

John Latham, A World View, 2 March – 21 May, Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA.

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1. John Latham Erth (1971) 25′, 16mm. Courtesy the estate of the artist.