John LATHAM (1921 - 2006)

In a row of terraced houses on a quiet street in South London one building stands out. Flat Time House has a gigantic coloured sculpture in the shape of a book protuding out of the window and onto the pavement outside.

 

This was the home and studio of John Latham, arguably one of the most anarchic and inventive artists Britain has ever produced. His work, made from books, glass, canvas, paint and the use of a spray gun, is as much about appropriation and reconstruction as it is about deconstruction.

 

Still and Chew (1966), Latham's most famous work, presents the disseminated remains of Clement Greenberg's book, 'Art & Culture' (1961). Reduced by Latham and his pupils through hours of chewing, the residue was then leavened with a dose of sulfuric acid and seasoned with a dash of bicarbonate of soda, to produce a single phial of inky, brown liquid. Latham was subsequently fired from his position at St Martin's but Still and Chew is now considered one of the most important conceptual art works of the 60s where it resides in the permanent collection of MoMA, NY.

 

Latham's influence continues to ripple out across the art establishment and colleges. The Tate gave him a solo show in 2005. 

 

Visit the online page that TATE dedicates to the artist.