Like many conceptual artists, Joseph Kosuth's works deal more with communication and language than formal objects. Although he exhibits physical objects, his intention is to engage the viewer's mind rather than their eye or emotions.
For one of his most well known works, "One and Three Chairs," he hung a full-size black and white photograph of a wooden folding chair on the gallery wall. On the floor next to it he placed the actual chair. Then displayed on the opposite side of the chair was an enlarged dictionary definition of a chair. By combining text (verbal representation), a photograph (visual representation), and the actual object, "One and Three Chairs" is similar to a mathematical equation.
The piece exists as a simplified model for a complex linguistic theory investigating how meaning is constructed rather than what the actual meaning is. In addition to the exploration of "chairness," Kosuth often displays photographic reproductions of basic art vocabulary words ("abstract" "visualization" "meaning") defined on large panels.
This more analytical approach to art production rooted in philosophy and semiotics (the science of signs and symbols) is a difficult if not completely foreign concept for many viewers to grasp. Many criticize the work claiming that it demands so much from the viewer but offers very little in return.
Joseph Kosuth was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1945. Following seven years of art instruction at The Toledo Museum School and later painting at the Cleveland Art Institute, he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. After beginning his career as an artist in the early 1970's, he spent two years studying philosophy at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. His variety of educational experiences have contributed to his development as an artist, but it was Marcel Duchamp, whose (unassisted) readymades signified the monumental shift in art from appearance to concept, that had the greatest impact on his art and writing.
Joseph Kosuth's main objective is to question the nature of art through extensive writings about art, written displays, and minimal, yet aesthetically elegant works.
Page author: A.E.