Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1945, Joseph Kosuth is a conceptual artist known for his language-based works. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he studied at the Toledo Museum School of Design and the Cleveland Institute of Art as well as taking lessons privately with Belgian painter Line Bloom Draper. In 1965, he moved to New York and studied at the School of Visual Arts. Two years later, he founded the Museum of Normal Art, which held his first solo show.
Influenced by the writings of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Kosuth began making artwork that explored the philosophy of language and its meaning. His early works included pieces made of neon signs whose wording indicated the compositional elements of the piece such as Five Words in Green Neon (1965). Kosuth is perhaps best known for his work One and Three Chairs (1965), composed of a chair, a photo of a chair, and a dictionary definition of a chair, as well as for his Titled (Art as Idea as Idea) (1966-68) series, comprising Photostat enlargements of dictionary definitions.
In the 1970s, Kosuth exhibited his work outside of the traditional gallery setting in order to explore the notion that sociocultural contexts determine meaning in art. During this time, Kosuth’s language-based works appeared in magazine advertisements and on billboards. His works from the 1980s and 1990s included the Cathexis series of works, featuring text and reproductions of Old Master paintings, and A Grammatical Remark (1989-93), featuring text printed on walls with neon punctuation marks.
Over the course of his career, Kosuth has created several books. In addition to contributing to the influential Conceptual art publication the Xerox Book (1968), he created the artist’s book Notebook on Water 1965 - 66 (1970), which was included in the collaborative boxed set of artists’ books Artists & Photographs. Other artist’s books by Kosuth include Letters from Wittgenstein (Abridged in Ghent) (1992), which presents a facsimile of a 1967 book, and Purloined: A Novel (2000), a book in which he used forty-eight pages from forty-eight different books to create a new, composite story.
Kosuth has taught at a number of institutions throughout his career, including the School for the Visual Arts in New York and Kunstakademie in Munich. He currently teaches at Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia. In 1993, he was awarded the Menzione d’Onore at the Venice Biennale.
His works are held in the permanent collections of countless prestigious art museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Gallery, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Centre Pompidou), and the National Gallery of Canada.
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