John Latham (artist)

For other people with the same name, see John Latham (disambiguation).
John Latham
Born John Aubrey Clarendon Latham
(1921-02-23)23 February 1921
Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia (now Maramba, Zambia)
Died 1 January 2006(2006-01-01) (aged 84)
London, England
Nationality British
Education Chelsea College of Art and Design
Known for Painting, Sculpture
Movement Conceptual art

John Aubrey Clarendon Latham, (23 February 1921 1 January 2006) was a Zambia-born British conceptual artist.

Life and work

Film Star, 1960, Tate Modern

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.[1] He married fellow artist and collaborator Barbara Steveni in Westminster in 1951.[1]

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,[1] such as Film Star (1960).

Latham's event-based art was influential in performance art.[1] In 1966, Latham took part in the Destruction in Art Symposium in London, along with Fluxus artists such as Yoko Ono and Gustav Metzger.

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.[1]

From 1983 Latham lived and worked at his house, Flat Time House[2] in Peckham. He died at Kings College Hospital, Camberwell, on 1 January 2006.[1]

In 2005 Tate Britain put on an exhibition of Latham's work.

In 2010 John Latham: Canvas Events was published by Ridinghouse.[3]

Like Latham, early members of Pink Floyd attended Regent Street Polytechnic. In 2016, Pink Floyd released their collection of rare and unreleased recorded material in the box set "Pink Floyd The Early Years". On the second CD of the collection are nine versions of their previously unreleased song 'John Latham'.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 McNay, Michael (7 January 2006). "John Latham (Obituary) Radical and inspirational artist who courted controversy and pioneered conceptual art". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  2. Flat Time House
  3. "Canvas Events". Ridinghouse. Retrieved 5 August 2012.


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