Keith Arnatt

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Keith Arnatt c. 1970

Keith Arnatt (1930 - 2008) was an important conceptual artist whose early radical works tested assumptions about the nature of art production, the reception and legitimatization of art. Works like Liverpool Beach Burial (1968), Invisible Hole Revealed (1968), Self-Burial (1969), An Exhibition of the Duration of the Exhibition (1969), Art as an Act of Retraction (1971) were actions or propositions using staged interaction. In works of the period there is a shift from complex physically realized actions to works whose reduced basis (composed of textual and photographic elements) acts as a specification of the condition of the art work. Arnatt’s use of photographic documentation in his works then appeared to undermine or at least deprecate a separable role of the document as authentication, and was, and is, influential.[1][2]

Conceptual art[edit]

Arnatt's work is referred to by the art historian Charles Townsend Harrison as " ... developing during the mid '60s from a concern with Minimal paintings and sculptures posing gestalt problems, through involvement with elements of behaviour and performance to works often sited out of doors involving suspension or interruption of the spectator's expectations."[3]

Arnatt's works, associated with conceptual art[4][5] came to prominence in the late 1960s. A number of works from this period, including Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) (1969) and Trouser-Word Piece (1972-89 version) are in the Tate collection.[6][7]

Arnatt took part in a number of influential exhibitions of conceptual art including 'Konzeption-Conception, Städtichen Museum, Leverkusen', 1969; 'Information', Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970; 'Umwelt-Akzente / Die Expansion der Kunst', Kunstkreis Monschau, 1970 and 'Art as Idea in England', CAYC (Centro de Arte y Comunicación), Buenos Aires, 1971.

Photographic Series[edit]

In the 1970s and 1980s he produced series in black and white and colour. The Visitors (1974-6), Walking the Dog (1976-9), Gardeners (1978-9) and later colour series[8] such as Miss Grace's Lane (1986-7) combine his early interest in typologies, portraiture and landscape. These and later works were the subject of his retrospective at The Photographers' Gallery in 1989.

However it should be noticed that Arnatt, consistent with his earlier deflating use of ‘artist’, only ever ironically referred to himself as a photographer.[9]


External links[edit]