Lisson Gallery

John Latham Estate

John Latham (1921–2006) was a pioneer of British conceptual art, who, through painting, sculpture, performances, assemblages, films, installation and extensive writings, fuelled controversy and continues to inspire. A visionary in mapping systems of knowledge, whether scientific or religious, he developed his own philosophy of time, known as ‘Event Structure.’ In this doctrine he proposed that the most basic component of reality is not the particle, as implied by physics, but the ‘least event,’ or the shortest departure from the state of nothing. The entire universe is to be viewed as a system of events in time, rather than objects in space. Thus, for Latham all artworks were considered events and were activated as such through diverse processes ranging from spraying, chewing, shredding or spitting to simply declaring. For instance, his seminal 'skoob' happened in 1966, while Latham was teaching at St Martins School of Art. Latham borrowed a copy of Clement Greenberg’s recently published art history opus, Art and Culture, from the school’s library, and invited his students to join him in a ritualistic ceremony: the chewing and spitting out of select pages of the book. Latham decanted the vestiges into a phial, doused it in acid and yeast, and fermented it for a year, then returning the liquid he described as ‘Essence of Greenberg’ to the school. The Spit and Chew event poked at Greenberg’s emphasis on space and form, which was contradictory to Latham’s focus on the function of time in art, and cemented itself as a key example of conceptual art. The resulting artwork, Spit and Chew: Art and Culture (1966-69) is now owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Whether in his early spray paintings and One-Second Drawings, to the book reliefs he created in the 1960s, the roller paintings of the 1970s and the late glass towers works which incorporated bits of all theorems, John Latham maintained steadfast devotion to exploring the most complex cosmological ideas and questioning the traditional notions and structures of art, science and philosophy. 

In 2003, John Latham declared his house and studio a living sculpture, naming it FTHo after his theory of time, ‘Flat Time.’ Until his death, Latham opened his door to anyone interested in thinking about art. It is in this spirit that Flat Time House opened in 2008 as a gallery with a program of exhibitions and events exploring the artist's practice, his theoretical ideas and their continued relevance. It also provides a center for alternative learning, which includes the John Latham archive, and an artist's residency space. 

John Latham was born in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia (now Maramba, Zambia) in 1921. In 1946 he enrolled at Regent Street Polytechnic, London, UK and then studied painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design, also in London, from 1947 to 1951. His work was included in the 2017 Venice Biennale, and was the subject of an exhibition, 'A World View: John Latham', on view at the Serpentine Galleries, London, UK in the same year. Additional solo museum exhibitions include Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK (2016); Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy (2014); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK (2010); P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY, USA (2006); Tate Britain, London, UK (2005); Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany (1991); Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (1984); and Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany (1975). His work was shown in many group exhibitions including documenta 6, Kassel, Germany (1977) and the Venice Biennale’s 2005 edition.

John Latham Estate
Untitled (Roller Painting), 1964
Spray paint on white duck 318 x 268 cm / 125 3/16 x 105 1/2 in.

John Latham Estate
Tadpole-Traffrail, 1974
Screen-print on canvas 43 x 43 cm / 16 15/16 x 16 15/16 in.

John Latham Estate
They're learning fast, 1988
Mixed media sculpture 47 x 91 x 30 cm / 18 1/2 x 35 7/8 x 11 3/4 in

John Latham Estate
Untitled : No. 2 of 11, 1992
Plaster, fragments of books, rubber, metal fittings, wire and wheel 30 x 32 x 27 cm / 11 3/4 x 12 5/8 x 10 5/8 in

John Latham Estate
Untitled : No. 8 of 11, 1992
Plaster, fragments of books, wire meshing 15 x 22 x 13 cm / 5 7/8 x 8 5/8 x 5 1/8 in

John Latham Estate
Classical Painting , 1988
Drawer, expanded polyurethane, book fragments 49 x 34 x 8.5 cm / 19 1/4 x 13 3/8 x 3 3/8 in

John Latham Estate
Presumed Level of Abstraction, 1974
Screen print on canvas 96 x 81 cm / 37 3/4 x 31 7/8 in

John Latham Estate
They're learning fast, 1988
Mixed media sculpture 47 x 91 x 30 cm / 18 1/2 x 35 7/8 x 11 3/4 in

John Latham Estate
The Wedge, 1988
Glass, books, spray paint 260 x 92 x 85 cm / 102 3/8 x 36 1/4 x 33 1/2 in

John Latham Estate
Omniscientist, 1963
Books, wire, wire mesh, machine fragments, plaster, paint on books on canvas 107 x 160 x 37 cm / 42 1/8 x 63 x 53 7/8 in

John Latham Estate
The Gentlest Art, 1962
Books, plaster on canvas and mounted on hardboard 77 x 79 x 20 cm / 30 3/8 x 31 1/8 x 7 7/8 in

John Latham Estate
Canvas Event #2, 1994
Spray painted canvas twisted on stretcher 64 x 77 cm / 25 1/4 x 30 3/8 in

John Latham Estate
Canvas Event, 1994-95
Acrylic on canvas 122 x 91.2 cm / 48 x 35 7/8 in

John Latham Estate
Forcefield, 1967
Spray paint on canvas 277.4 cm x 181.3 cm / 109 1/4 x 71 3/8 in

John Latham Estate
Four Phases of the Sun, 1963
Books, wires, plaster, paint on canvas on hardboard 229 x 314 x 23 cm / 90 3/16 x 123 5/8 x 9 1/16 in.

John Latham Estate
Four Phases of the Sun, 1963
Books, wires, plaster, paint on canvas on hardboard 229 x 314 x 23 cm / 90 3/16 x 123 5/8 x 9 1/16 in.

Exhibitions

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    John Latham: Skoob Works

    2 May – 16 June 2018

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    John Latham: Spray Paintings

    1 April – 7 May 2016

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    John Latham / Lee Ufan

    10 February – 23 March 2012

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    John Latham: THE LISSON GALLERY DOES NOT E...

    5 May – 5 June 2010

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    God is Great: Douglas Gordon, Anish Kapoor...

    10 June – 9 September 2005

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    John Latham: God is Great and Belief Syste...

    21 January – 5 March 2005

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    John Latham: OHO

    21 October – 20 November 1992

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    John Latham: Works 1983-1988

    24 October – 19 November 1988

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    John Latham

    14 January – 14 March 1987

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    John Latham

    3 November – 6 December 1970

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