Book as Meat: Various Works, John Latham

British conceptual artist John Latham (1921-2006) is an intriguing artist who frequently worked with books, producing provocative sculptural artworks, works that are attractive from a distance, but uncomfortable and brutal up close.

John Latham - Various Works
John Latham – Various Works. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017

On canvas and in sculptural form Latham layers materials; wires, mesh, plaster, paint all wrestle on canvas – into this mix are thrown books. Latham’s books are hacked at, carved up, coloured (reds, yellows, brown/black) and splayed open, held by the wires which curl round them like tendrills. These rounded, chopped up, tinged pieces of book are meat-like.

John Latham - Various Works
John Latham – Various Works. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017

These organic colours and shapes look intriguing from a distance, from across the room, but close up, peering at the surface, a violence comes through. And this violence comes from the energy of the layered materials and particularly from the destruction of the books, objects that we are each familiar and intimate with. And this tension and discomfort make the artist’s work particularly powerful.

John Latham - Various Works
John Latham – Various Works. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017

Further Reading:

Viva Arte Viva: 57th International Art Exhibition La Biennale Di VeneziaPaperback by Christine Macel, Rizzoli  International Publications, 2017

John Latham: A World View by Rita Donagh and Joseph Constable, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, 2017