ART & LANGUAGE UNCOMPLETED
The Philippe Méaille Collection
The Philippe Méaille Collection stands out as a remarkable representation of one the most complex and belligerent practices of the second half of the twentieth century. Largely associated with Conceptual Art, Art & Language challenges the existing vocabulary of art history by refusing affiliation to any artistic identity. Since the mid sixties Art & Language’s initial development was based on assimilating critical and dissenting practices that relied on a discursive, conversational and language-based perspective that continues through to the present. In that sense, the works by Art & Language the Philippe Méaille Collection may come across as a contingent history of the collective, yet this is the most adequate form of encapsulating what is often referred as a ‘radically uncompleted, radically inconclusive’ practice.
Many individuals have been associated with Art & Language. They include Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin, Ian Burn, Charles Harrison, Joseph Kosuth, Philip Pilkington, Mel Ramsden and Dave Rushton. Since 1977, the practice of Art & Language has been in the hands of Baldwin and Ramsden, becoming self-observing and indeed essayistic. Whereas the publication Art-Language provided an access to the multi-theoretical field in which Art & Language evolved through the sixties, seventies and eighties, allowing their readers to become empowered, the most recent positions adopted by the artists contaminate the perception of their own collective past. In turn, the Philippe Méaille Collection is further affected by the archaeological perspective with which the Collection was assembled. Many of the works can be found in the form of card files, manuscripts, typescripts, layouts and final prints. All in all Art & Language remains a contested space, with no privileged point of view to describe its achievements.
Méaille’s consistent recollection and gathering of early works by Art & Language gives us full access to a fascinating period in which the analytical philosophy, that of language and of scientific knowledge provided the tools to dismantle the notion of art and art object. These early works include many not seen since their first exhibitions: Paintings (1966), Frameworks (1966–67), Study for the Air-Conditioning Show (1967) recently installed at the Hayward Gallery in London and at the Pompidou Centre, Guaranteed Paintings (1967), Secret Paintings (1967–68) and 100% Abstract (1968). In parallel, the Collection of Philippe Méaille has accumulated a vast number of documents that track the massive discursive output that has characterised Art & Language since its inception.
The exhibition will feature an extensive selection of works by Art & Language from the Philippe Méaille Collection and will be accompanied by a publication, with essays by Carles Guerra and Matthew Jesse Jackson, and an interview with Michael Baldwin, Mel Ramsden and Philippe Méaille.
Opening: 18 September 2014. Curator: Carles Guerra. Organisation and production: Exhibition organised by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and co-produced with the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Sponsored by Fundación AXA.