John Latham - Conceptual Art

John Latham, (23 February 1921 – 1 January 2006) was a Zambia-born British conceptual artist. Latham was educated at Winchester College. In the Second World War he commanded a motor torpedo boat in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. After the war he studied art, first at the Regent Street Polytechnic and then at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. He married fellow artist and collaborator Barbara Steveni in Westminster in 1951.The spray can became Latham's primary medium, as can be seen in Man Caught Up with a Yellow Object (oil painting, 1954) in the Tate Gallery collection. In addition to spray paint, Latham tore, sawed, chewed and burnt books to create collage material for his work, such as Film Star (1960).Latham's event-based art was influential in performance art. In 1966, he took part in the Destruction in Art Symposium in London led by Gustav Metzger along with Fluxus artists such as Yoko Ono, Wolf Vostell and Al Hansen.His «skoob» («books» written backwards) works using books or materials derived from them had the power to shock. He moved from collages to towers of books which he then burnt, awakening uncomfortable echoes of the Nazi regime's public burning of banned books.
From 1983 Latham lived and worked at his house, Flat Time House in Peckham. In 1991 he produced God is Great (no. 2), a conceptual artwork featuring copies of the Bible, Quran, and a volume of the Talmud, each cut in two and attached to a sheet of glass.

 

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