The group was founded in Coventry, England by Michael Baldwin, David Bainbridge, Terry Atkinson and Harold Hurrell. The critic and art historian Charles Harrison and the artist Mel Ramsden both became associated with the group, in 1970.
From the beginning, Art & Language questioned the critical assumptions of mainstream modern art practice and criticism. Much of their early work consisted of detailed discussion of these issues presented in their journal or in an art gallery context. However they also made exemplary works of conceptual art such as Map Not to Indicate of 1967.
In A Provisional History of Art & Language, Charles Harrison and Fred Orton record that between 1968 and 1982, up to fifty people were associated in some way with the activities around the name Art & Language. They identified three main phases of the group: the early years, up to 1972, which chiefly found public expression in the publication Art Language; a middle period divided between New York and England and linked to the publication of the journal The Fox (discontinued in 1976); and the period since 1977, during which paintings have been produced which examine the critical issues that concern them. Since 1977, Art & Language has mainly concerned three people, the artists Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, and the critic Charles Harrison.