Joseph Kosuth. Photo: Peter Lindbergh

 

Considered one of the pioneers of conceptual and installation art in the 1960s, Joseph Kosuth has undertaken sustained investigations into the philosophy of language and the primacy of meaning that have taken the form of objects, installations, texts, publications and projects in public spaces. Working primarily in clearly-defined series, Kosuth believes that an artist’s medium is meaning, not simply form and color, and that meaning is generated as a surplus from the juxtaposition between two elements, for example the space between text and image, primarily enabled by his use of appropriation.

 

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A recipient of critical acclaim from a young age, One and Three Chairs (1965) was produced when Kosuth was just 20 years old and exemplifies many of the attitudes that still permeate his practice. The work negates authorship, offering a disregard for conventional ways of presenting artistic creativity; it consists of a chair, a life-sized photograph of the same chair, and an enlarged dictionary definition of the word ‘chair’. This formula was later applied to other objects, each questioning what constitutes the object – the object itself or the different ways that can be used to identify it and then explain and communicate this, and how each of these have their own registers and codes.

A medium that Kosuth has also been associated with from early on is neon. As a “readymade” form of public signage, it had no prior reference in fine art, thereby avoiding any a priori presumptions or meaning. As a medium of announcing a product or service, Kosuth appropriates it as a voice to say something else, taking advantage of the job of the neon sign to represent solely the written information it displays. The verbal replaces the pictorial, making language its content as description and image are collapsed into each other, a hierarchy he has also established in his own writings that became some of the key tenets of conceptual art. Rewritten in neon are both fragments of phrase or longer quotations from writers he finds influential, notably Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Freud and Beckett. Each he finds important due to a shared interest in certain themes, whether it is Beckett’s relationship to time or Wittgenstein’s view that art has something to teach us. The neons are also notable for their use of color; the majority of his work is achromatic and color is only used if it has a reason to be there. These works use the specified and limited range of neon colors simply as a means of providing visual difference, utilized not for decorative means.

The adoption of a “readymade” commercial technology is also evident in his Text/Context series of the late 1970s in which public billboards with self-authored philosophical texts mimic the visual language of advertising, again drawing attention to the context in which a work of art is received and how this constructs meaning. Indeed, site-specific installations of varying complexity and scale permeate his practice, often combining neon with other mediums such as vinyl text or other glass elements. In The Mind’s Image of Itself #3 (2011) the architecture of a gallery was mapped out with a line drawing annotated with both measurements and quotations, offering various voices and types of information in one space. With auxiliary meaning developing within specific physical and philosophical contexts of reception, Kosuth’s constant is the role of language.

 

Joseph Kosuth: Sigmund Freud and the Play on the Burden of Representation
Belvedere 21, Vienna, September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015
© Belvedere, Vienna 2015
Works
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
'Four Colors Four Words', 1966

Joseph Kosuth
'Four Colors Four Words', 1966
Cobalt blue, yellow, ruby red and green neon
11 × 198 cm
4 1/4 × 78 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
'Titled [Art as Idea (as Idea)]‘ [Square], 1968

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled [Art as Idea (as Idea)]‘ [Square], 1968
Certificate of authenticity
Photographic enlargement of dictionary definition
122 × 122 cm
48 × 48 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
'Self-defined object’, 1966

Joseph Kosuth
'Self-defined object’, 1966
Certificate of authenticity
Yellow neon mounted directly on the wall
11 × 173 cm
4 1/4 × 68 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007
Yellow neon mounted directly on the wall
Dimensions variable

More views
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
Mondrian's Work XV, 2015

Joseph Kosuth
Mondrian's Work XV, 2015
Certificate of authenticity
Silkscreen on glass, white neon mounted directly on the wall
200 × 200 cm
78 3/4 × 78 3/4 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
'The Mind's Image of Itself #3', 2011

Joseph Kosuth
'The Mind's Image of Itself #3', 2011
Certificate of authenticity
Wallpaper
Dimensions variable

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
‘The Paradox of Content #1’ [violet], 2009

Joseph Kosuth
‘The Paradox of Content #1’ [violet], 2009
Certificate of authenticity
Violet neon
185 × 140 cm
72 7/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
'Essential C.S. #6', 1988

Joseph Kosuth
'Essential C.S. #6', 1988
Certificate of authenticity
Green neon mounted directly on wall
15 × 90 cm
6 × 35 3/8 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Ten photographic enlargements of dictionary definitions mounted on board
122 × 122 cm (each)
48 × 48 inches (each)

More views
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
Neon, 1965

Joseph Kosuth
Neon, 1965
White neon mounted on transformer

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
One and Three Lamps [Etym.], 1965

Joseph Kosuth
One and Three Lamps [Etym.], 1965
Certificate of authenticity
Lamp, mounted photograph of a lamp, and mounted photographic enlargement of a dictionary definition
Dimensions variable

Details
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Four Colors Four Words', 1966
Cobalt blue, yellow, ruby red and green neon
11 × 198 cm
4 1/4 × 78 inches

Joseph Kosuth
'Four Colors Four Words', 1966
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled [Art as Idea (as Idea)]‘ [Square], 1968
Certificate of authenticity
Photographic enlargement of dictionary definition
122 × 122 cm
48 × 48 inches

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled [Art as Idea (as Idea)]‘ [Square], 1968
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Self-defined object’, 1966
Certificate of authenticity
Yellow neon mounted directly on the wall
11 × 173 cm
4 1/4 × 68 inches

Joseph Kosuth
'Self-defined object’, 1966
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007
Yellow neon mounted directly on the wall
Dimensions variable

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio, 2007
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
Mondrian's Work XV, 2015
Certificate of authenticity
Silkscreen on glass, white neon mounted directly on the wall
200 × 200 cm
78 3/4 × 78 3/4 inches

Joseph Kosuth
Mondrian's Work XV, 2015
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'The Mind's Image of Itself #3', 2011
Certificate of authenticity
Wallpaper
Dimensions variable

Joseph Kosuth
'The Mind's Image of Itself #3', 2011
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
‘The Paradox of Content #1’ [violet], 2009
Certificate of authenticity
Violet neon
185 × 140 cm
72 7/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Joseph Kosuth
‘The Paradox of Content #1’ [violet], 2009
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Essential C.S. #6', 1988
Certificate of authenticity
Green neon mounted directly on wall
15 × 90 cm
6 × 35 3/8 inches

Joseph Kosuth
'Essential C.S. #6', 1988
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Ten photographic enlargements of dictionary definitions mounted on board
122 × 122 cm (each)
48 × 48 inches (each)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968 (detail)

Joseph Kosuth
'Titled (Art as Idea as Idea)' [Nothing] Los Angeles, 1968, 1968
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
Neon, 1965
White neon mounted on transformer

Joseph Kosuth
Neon, 1965
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
One and Three Lamps [Etym.], 1965
Certificate of authenticity
Lamp, mounted photograph of a lamp, and mounted photographic enlargement of a dictionary definition
Dimensions variable

Joseph Kosuth
One and Three Lamps [Etym.], 1965
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Joseph Kosuth
Photo: Joseph Kosuth; 'Cathexis #53 (series 1981)' (2019)

Inspiration – Iconic Works
Joseph Kosuth
February 20-May 17, 2020
Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Stockholm

Inspiration – Iconic Works tells the story of the signature works: what they were, where they emerged and why and how they have influenced the contemporary art scene. Another aspect of the exhibition addresses the significance of the museum buildings, for example through a series of contemporary photographic interpretations by Ola Kolehmainen, a Finnish artist based in Berlin. The Nationalmuseum building is also part of the story.

Link

Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics
Joseph Kosuth
June 18-September 20, 2020
Ateneum Finish National Gallery, Helsinki

The exhibition explores what constitutes the visual DNA of Western art. Certain images are reproduced in our time in countless different forms, but do we know where they originally came from? The history of art, as it is being told today, is closely linked with the institution of the modern museum, which emerged in the 19th century. Key representatives of such institutions, in both the exhibition and the accompanying publication, are the Altes Museum in Berlin, the Glyptothek in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Link
Joseph Kosuth
Photo: Joseph Kosuth; 'Cathexis #53 (series 1981)' (2019)
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
Amnesia: various, luminous, fixed.
November 26, 2014–February 14, 2015
London

Featuring work that dates from 1965 through to 2011, 'Amnesia: Various, Luminous, Fixed.' offers an extensive overview of Joseph Kosuth’s oeuvre in neon. The show chronicles an almost 50-year investigation into the role of language and meaning in art, as well as Kosuth’s enduring use of neon, which he first developed as a medium in the 1960s (preceding Bruce Nauman, Mario Merz and Keith Sonnier, for example), when Kosuth considered the medium a form of ‘public writing’, without fine art associations. The exhibition will feature 25 of Kosuth’s neon works, including one of the artist’s first neons Five Fives (to Donald Judd) [orange] (1965), alongside recent works such as three from his Beckett series (2011).

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Joseph Kosuth
Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed.,
April 27–August 31, 2013
Berlin

Featuring work dating from 1965 through to today, 'Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed.' will for the first time offer an extensive overview of the artist’s work in neon. This chronicals a nearly 50 year-long investigation of the production and role of language and meaning within art, and an on-going use of neon, a material appropriated in the 1960’s first by Kosuth who considered it a form of ‘public writing’, without fine art associations, and traditionally associated with popular culture.

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Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
The Mind’s Image of Itself #3’ a play of architecture and the mind
September 10–October 1, 2011
London

'The Mind’s Image of Itself' is both a reflection on the architecture of the gallery space and of a suggested architecture of the mind. The installation is composed of an off register, a 1:1 wallpapered line drawing facsimile of the gallery rooms themselves; an architectural plan of the exhibition space visible only due to its off-centre positioning. Kosuth re-frames a structure that literally replicates and shifts the existing morphology of the once Georgian and Victorian architecture of the London gallery. The mind’s ‘image of itself’ is a reflection within itself, an allegorical re-tracing of the defining elements that make up both the physical context of the exhibition itself (its walls, doors and windows) while simultaneously presenting the various meanings that the space, as an architectural object and a social/culture interface in play, reflects.

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Joseph Kosuth
February 8–April 13, 2006
London

Joseph Kosuth is a key figure in the redefinition of the art object that took place during the 1960's and 1970's. Conceptual art, as it has been since called, brought Kosuth international acclaim as he is seen as one of its most major practitioners, contributing both the earliest works, its most well-known theoretical text, as well as organizing its first exhibitions. Joseph Kosuth's work has had a major impact on the present practice of art. He was arguably the first to employ appropriation strategies, texts, photography, installations and the use of public media.

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Joseph Kosuth
Press

Joseph Kosuth Digs Deep Under the Surface of Culture
Interview Magazine, interview by Scott King, December 26, 2018

Joseph Kosuth: ‘The artists at the top of the billionaires’ lists are quite derivative’
The Guardian, article by Stephanie Convery, October 13, 2017

Joseph Kosuth: Hot, Bright, and Requiring Lots of Explanation
Artnet, article by JJ Charlesworth, December 16, 2014

Gallery Weekend Berlin #05 / Joseph Kosuth at Sprüth Magers
Mousse Magazine

Joseph Kosuth: Nach dem Fall der Philosophie der Aufstieg der Kunst
Kunstforum, interview by Heinz-Norbert Jocks, January-February 2013

Interviews: Joseph Kosuth
Artforum, interview by Arthur Ou, September 20, 2011

Es ist ein Stuhl, basta!
Art, das Kunstmagazin, article by Sandra Danicke, January 2011

So etwas wie ein freier Raum: Joseph Kosuth
Spex, interview by Max Dax, November-Dezember 2010

Biography

Joseph Kosuth (*1945, Toledo, OH) lives and works in New York and in London. Selected solo exhibitions include MAMM, Moscow (2015), Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Kartause Ittingen (2014), The Jewish Museum, New York (2012), Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (2011), the ACCA – Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2010), the Louvre, Paris (2009), the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2006), the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2000), the Tokushima Modern Art Museum (1999), the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (1990), the Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna (1989) and the MoMA PS1, New York (1980). He has participated in Documenta V, VI, VII and IX (1972, 1978, 1982, 1992) and the Venice Biennale (2007, 1999, 1993, 1976). Awards include the Decoration of Honor in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria (2003), the Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1993), the Menzione d’Onore at the Venice Biennale (1993) and the Brandeis Award (1990). In February 2001 he was awarded the Laurea Honoris Causa, a doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Bologna.

Education
1971–72 New School for Social Research, New York (Anthropology and Philosophy)
1963–64 Cleveland Institute of Art
1965–67 The School of Visual Arts, New York
1955–62 Toledo Museum School of Design
Teaching
2007– Professor, Istituto Universitario di Architettura, Venice
2001–06 Professor, Kunstakademie Munich
1991–97 Professor, Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart
1988–90 Professor, Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg
1967–85 Faculty, Department of Fine Art, The School of Visual Arts, New York
1966–67 Assistent Director, The School of Visual Arts, New York
Awards, Grants and Fellowships
2003 Decoration of Honor in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria
2001 Laura Honoris Causa, doctorate in Philosophy and Letters, University of Bologna
1999 postage stamp - issued by the French Government in honor of his work in Figeac
1993 Menzione d’Onore, Venice Biennale
1993 Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres
1991 Frederick Weisman Award
1990 Brandeis Award
1968 Cassandra Foundation Grant
Magazine Editor
1977–78 Marxist Perspectives, art editor
1975–76 The Fox, coeditor
1969– Art & Language
Books
2001 Purloined
1975 The Artist as Anthropologist
1969 Art after Philosophy
Public Collections
Australian National Gallery, Canberra
Collection Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Milan
Fer Collection, Ulm
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome
Haus Lange, Krefeld
Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Kunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau, Kartause
Magritte Museum Royal museum of Fine Arts of Belgium
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
Tate, London
The Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
The Ludwig Collection
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Walker Art Centrer, Minneapolis