Joseph Ko­suth: A Short His­tory of My Thought

The grandaddy of con­cep­tual art is com­ing to Mel­bourne Fes­ti­val.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - ARTS & CULTURE - By Dee Jef­fer­son

WHEN IT COMES to con­cep­tual art, peo­ple are more fa­mil­iar with the names John Baldessari and Sol Le­witt than they are with Joseph Ko­suth – but the Ohio-born painter was a fore­run­ner of the move­ment, which blos­somed in 1960s New York and up­turned the very idea of what ‘art’ is. Ko­suth used the term to de­note art as an ex­pres­sion of ideas. His self-re­flex­ive early works stripped the ‘art work’ back to its base con­cepts: ‘Neon’ (cre­ated in 1965, when he was just 20), fea­tured the word ‘Neon’ in neon-lit tube light­ing; his in­stal­la­tion ‘One and Three Chairs’ (1965) placed a phys­i­cal chair between a pho­to­graphic print of a chair and a printed text def­i­ni­tion of ‘chair’ – and in­vited the au­di­ence to con­sider which of the three was the more ‘chair’.

Sounds mad­den­ing – and cer­tainly, Ko­suth’s work can be quite dry and an­a­lyt­i­cal; but in this era of ‘fake news’ and vis­ual sat­u­ra­tion, dare we say that an in­ter­ro­ga­tion of how we cre­ate mean­ing is timely?

A suite of text-based (and of­ten neon-based) works from across Ko­suth’s 50-year prac­tice will be on show over two lev­els of Anna Schwartz Gallery this month as part of Mel­bourne Fes­ti­val. The artist him­self will also be present, giv­ing a lec­ture on Thurs­day Oc­to­ber 5 at the State Li­brary of Vic­to­ria.

Mel­bourne Fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Jonathan Hol­loway, de­scribes Joseph Ko­suth’s work as “brain food rather than soul food,” but also ad­mits to be­ing se­duced by the spec­ta­cle of his neon-based works. “Some of it is so ex­quis­ite – and I see it as a sort of pre­cur­sor to that neon tex­tual world that has be­come so ubiq­ui­tous.”

Joseph Ko­suth, ‘A Con­di­tion­ing of Con­scious­ness’, 1988

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