Conrad Atkinson was born in Cumbria in 1940 and worked as a teacher and artist using a varied range of media. He gained degrees from Carlisle College of Art, Liverpool College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools between 1957 and 1965, later winning a Granada Fellowship.
Since 1992 he has been Professor of Art and Chair Dept of Art and Art History University of California at Davis . Currently Professor Emeritus. 2002 Distinguished Visiting Professor/Artist in Residence Courtauld Institute, London University. Honorary Fellow Cumbria University UK. Churchill Fellow 1972
He is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Art.
His depictions wounds and scars from Renaissance crucifixion paintings created “a disconcerting dialogue between present and past,” according to the Times of London, which cited the show as one of the three best of the year nationwide.
“It is the forging together of conceptualism and activism to art practice that distinguishes Atkinson’s work and makes it such an important contribution to 20th century art history.”
Lawrence Rinder, Curator Whitney Biennial New York
“Conrad Atkinson is one of the most important fine artists in the world who specialize in social and political concerns. The strength of all of his graphics, installations, paintings and sculptures is their visual appeal. Although the text is significant, the images are most compelling and provocative. Atkinson’s earliest pieces demonstrate the proposition, exploited by advertisers during the same years as his art practise, that an image is worth a thousand words. Conrad Atkinson has been consistently committed to making the world better while creating works that are visually arresting and well crafted. This combination of ambition and accomplishment is unique. There are no other British artists of his humanity and stature.”
Miranda McClintic Curator Hirshhorn Museum Washington DC.
“Because of his clarity, his wit, his love of community and his gift for locating the hidden stitch that unravels the seam, Conrad Atkinson has gradually revealed himself to be one of the most thoroughly humanist artists of our time.”
Dan Cameron Director New Museum of Contemporary Art New York.
“Conrad Atkinson’s light, on the other hand, is luminous, as it is in the work of the artists he engages: William Wordsworth, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and the light of their landscapes; Pablo Picasso and the bursting bombs he alludes to in Guernica. The path is better lit, but no less difficult or treacherous. And the nexus of viewer and art is quite similar; one is forced to recognize certain facts, ideas, and events revealed in a way that it is painful to avoid or deny them, rather than the other way around. Meanings normally concealed by our habit of viewing art as something apart from life are deliberately reclaimed. The collaborations are introduced by wall texts that describe Atkinson’s connection to or meetings with the aforesaid artists (all of them dead) and their agreements to redo certain important works, all of this in rather vulgar terms that jolt them into the present.
Donald Goddard New York Review
“An oft-repeated mantra on the clothing says “Aesthetics can be a pretty ugly business”—in case anyone should fail to get the message that this artist takes responsibility for his own part in the dilemma. If the work were any more slick, I might take Atkinson to be cynical; instead, I responded to his apparent warmth and energy, and bought his sincerity—a distinctly un-Dadalike characteristic.
What makes Atkinson still firmly Dada is that he transforms everyday objects by manipulating their presentation—though it isn’t exactly pleasant to be reminded of the chilling fact that land mines are everyday objects in far too many places—and he does it with the expected ironic sense of humor. Yet, he is postmodern, too, in the undercurrent of dead earnestness that runs through his work, as well as the light touch that also pervades it.
This subtle sleight-of-hand is part of what makes Atkinson a superior artist: He is neither a slave to fashion (if he were, he’d need to abandon the political messages that are at the heart of his creative output) nor a wild card too out of touch with the mainstream to be relevant.
Instead, he has staked out a piece of turf in the history of art-as-politics with a clear, urgent voice and a lasting message: Have the courage to think for yourself, no matter what.”
David Brickman New York