Opening in the presence of the artists on Saturday, September 13th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is pleased to announce its first exhibition of Art & Language,
opening Saturday, September 13th. In this début with Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Paris/Salzburg, the well-known artist collaborative Art & Language, composed today of
Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, will present selected works on paper from the past four
decades. On the occasion of this exhibition, a book-length catalogue with texts by Art &
Language and the critic and art historian Barbara Rose will be published, and a conversation
with the artists—moderated by Barbara Rose—will take place at Galerie Ropac Paris at 4pm
on September 13th.
Seen by many as the radical bad boys of Conceptualism, Art & Language have from the very
beginning taken a contrarian position within the traditional understanding of conceptual art
and practice. Their art making has encompassed many forms—be it writing lyrics and
performing rock and roll music with The Red Crayola in the 1960s, to constructing arcane
indexical works, to writing the now historical and famous journal Art-Language, to large,
sculptural installations that employ portions of their texts as building blocks. Their anarchic
yet historically grounded discourse has simultaneously energized and stymied audiences
since their appearance at Documenta 5 in 1972.
At Documenta 5, Art & Language presented Index, a work that invites the viewer to act as
interlocutor for a complex assemblage of cross-referential texts. In partaking in the act of
seeing, the viewer becomes not only a reader but participant and conversationalist in their
writerly practice, engaging in Art & Languageʼs use of intertextuality in the same manner that
a viewer “reads” and draws connections between iconographic elements. Oneʼs “reading” of
their works—whether on the page or on the wall—is, however, by no means an act that aspires to achieve a certain whole meaning. To the contrary, Art & Language is very much
invested in an ambivalence towards corporate art institutions and systems that is conditional
upon a refusal of whole meaning.
The works presented in “Brouillages/Blurrings” carry with them the progeny of art historical
movements and transatlantic debates in critical theory that have spanned the 20th century
and beyond. Implicit in their process has been a powerful commitment to dismantle the
traditional genres that have been the cornerstones of art historical and critical enquiry since
the Renaissance. In this exhibition, Art & Language present their particular view of art
historical practice—here presented as a questioning strategy for further understanding—the
raison dʼêtre of art making at this historical moment. Why and how does an artist make work
in the late 20th and now in the 21st century? This exhibition displays the wide, panoramic,
reverential view Art & Language takes of their predecessors—be it through nods to
Pointillism in the snow-covered table and chairs of There were Sighs Trapped by Liars (I), or
direct engagement with images of the European canon, such as Study for Gustave Courbetʼs
Origine du Monde; that Courbetʼs piece was a point of departure is interesting given its own
rich image-text history—having been owned at one point by Jacques Lacan and having
inspired texts by Christine Orban and Bernard Teyssèdre as well as a larger critical dialogue
surrounding its provocative subject. There is a layering upon the back of this history that
occurs, as much on the page as between written lines.
The name Art & Language was first adopted in 1968, to refer to a collaborative practice that
had developed over the previous two years between Michael Baldwin and Terry Atkinson, in
association with David Bainbridge and Harold Hurrell. In 1970 Ian Burn and Mel Ramsden
merged their separate collaboration with Art & Language. The journal Art-Language was first
published in May 1969 and a second journal The Fox was published in New York in 1975-6.
From 1976 the genealogical thread of Art & Languageʼs artistic work was taken solely into
the hands of Baldwin and Ramsden, with the theoretical and critical collaboration of these
two with Charles Harrison. Their recent writings have appeared in such journals as Critical
Inquiry and Radical Philosophy. Art & Language have appeared in many international
exhibitions including further Documenta exhibitions in 1982 and 1997. They have also had
several retrospectives in recent years at the Jeu de Paume, Paris (1993), P.S.1
Contemporary Art Center, New York (1999), Musée d'Art Moderne, Lille (2002) and the
Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Malaga (2004).
For further information regarding the exhibition, please contact Jill Silverman Van Coenegrachts
(firstname.lastname@example.org) or Victoire de Pourtalès (+33 1 42 72 99 00; email@example.com).
To obtain visual elements, please contact Zahra KH-Alam (firstname.lastname@example.org).