The first solo exhibition in Ireland of the work of Joseph Kosuth, one of the founders of Conceptual art, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Thursday 13 March. The exhibition, entitled Guests and Foreigners, Rules and Meanings (James Joyce, Pola, Roma, Trieste, Paris, Zurich, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Dublin, County Wicklow, Connemara), includes a large scale installation which utilises the writings and history of two important 20th-century figures; James Joyce and Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. This installation, one of his most ambitious to date, will counterpoint 14 seminal works (from 1965 to 1997) which established Kosuth as one of the pivotal figures in Conceptual art.
Joseph Kosuth’s work played a key role in the redefinition of art which took place in the 1960s and ‘70s, which questioned traditional art forms and practices and the assumptions surrounding them. The questions asked then are still contested as a new generation comes under their influence, and Kosuth is at the centre of these debates. For Kosuth the meaning of art, as expressed in language, is more important than its appearance, the concept more important than the object. Through a variety of means, from dictionary definitions to advertising billboards, he presents abstracted information to the viewer. This information simultaneously explains itself and broadens the perceptions of artistic practice as it reveals the mechanisms which produce meaning.
Kosuth describes the process used in works such as One and Three Chairs 1965, one of the key works in the exhibition: “I used common, functional objects – such as a chair – and to the left of the object would be a full-scale photograph of it and to the right of the object would be a photostat of a definition of the object from the dictionary. Everything you saw when you looked at the object had to be the same that you saw in the photograph, so each time the work was exhibited the new installation necessitated a new photograph. I like the fact that the work itself was something other than simply what you saw. By changing the location, the object, and still having it remain the same work was very interesting. It meant you could have an art work which was that idea of an art work, and its formal components weren’t important … The expression was in the idea, not the form – the forms were only a device in the service of the idea.”
Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1945, Joseph Kosuth studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art; the School of Visual Arts, New York City and New School for Social Research. He was a founder member of the Art and Language group and contributed to the defining debates of that period in the late 1960s and early ‘70s before leaving in 1975. He has been a prize winner at the 1993 Venice Biennale, and was made Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1993. His collected writings Art after Philosophy and After were published by the M.I.T. Press in 1991. He has lectured widely throughout Europe and North America, and is presently a professor at the Stuttgart Kunstakademie. His work has been shown in countless solo and group exhibitions worldwide and forms part of all the major public collections and many key private collections. He lives in New York City and Ghent, Belgium.
The exhibition can be seen from 13 March to 11 June 1997.
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