John Armleder studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Geneva (1966-7) and at the Glamorgan Summer School, Britain (1969), becoming one of the most influential Swiss artists of his generation, with his paintings, installations, sculptures, performances and print work. His work shaped around the time that he spent with Fluxus in the 1960's/70's, "Fluxus" being an international and interdisciplinary group of artists, composers, designers and poets. Also associated with Neo-Geo (Neo-Geometric Conceptualism) in the 1980s for his furniture sculptures. His work is often varies greatly in form and content, but are all based on the element of chance. Armleder’s work often calls into question the definition of art, creating wallpaper, room-size installations and using furniture as sculpture or to accent his paintings in exhibitions. Though one theme has remained constant throughout his career, Armleder continues to avoid associating his artistic practice with any type of manifesto.
In 1969, with Patrick Lucchini and Claude Rychner, Armleder founded the Groupe Ecart in Geneva, from which stemmed the Galerie Ecart and its associated performance group and publications. The Groupe Ecart was particularly important in Europe during the 1970s and 1980s, not only through its activity as an independent publishing house, but also because it introduced in Switzerland—and sometimes in Europe—a large number of notable artists, including Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol. Armleder was later associated with Neo-Geo artistic movement and was often referred to as the "darling" of the New York art critics in this period (1980s).
Armleder frequently examines the context in which art is displayed and views the exhibition as a medium in its own right. Since the 1990s, he has created installations, paintings, wall paintings, sculptures and what he calls Furniture Sculptures—installations that usually juxtapose furniture with monochrome or abstract paintings, either literally on the furniture or on a canvas hanging nearby. His work has varied greatly in form, and has, since the beginning, used chance as a method of producing the final forms that pieces take, much like John Cage. He often uses a dense scenographic hanging style, putting individual works into close proximity and creating installation-like exhibitions.
Armleder, with Patrick Lucchini and Claude Rychner, founded the Galerie Ecart, it served as a performance art space and independent publishing house.
Armleder’s work can be found in many international museum's permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Moderna Museet in Sweden; Sammlung Ludwig in Switzerland and has represented Switzerland in the Venice Biennial.