People / Joseph Kosuth

Artist, curator, writer, educator. Joseph Kosuth was born on born January 31, 1945 in Toledo, Ohio. His work explores the relation of language and systems of signification to art. An important participant in the conceptual art movement of the 1960s, Kosuth’s work combines text with objects and images, as in his work One and Three Chairs (1965), which consists of a life-size photograph of a chair, an actual chair, and the text of the dictionary definition of chair. The work brings into question whether a visual or textual representation of an object can express the essence of that same object. Kosuth’s artistic theory was influenced by the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. In his influential essay “Art after Philosophy” (1969), Kosuth argued that art presents tautological propositions on art and thus the material manifestations of these propositions are inconsequential.

Kosuth’s artistic education began in the 1950s. In addition to studying privately under the Belgian painter, Line Bloom Draper during the mid 1950s, Kosuth studied art at the Toledo Museum School of Design (1955-1962), the Cleveland Art Institute (1963-1964), the New York School of Visual Arts (1965-1967), and later studied anthropology and philosophy at the New School for Social Research (1970-1971). Kosuth taught at the New York School of Visual Arts, was a founding director of the Museum of Normal Art in New York City (1967), editor of Art & Language Journal (New York and England, 1969-1973), The Fox Magazine (1975-1976), and art editor of Marxist Perspectives (1977-1978). His distinctions include the Brandeis Award (1990), the Frederick Weisman Award (1991), the Venice Biennale Menzione d’Onore (1993), the Chavalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1993), and the Decoration of Honor in Gold (2003), the Austrian Republic’s highest honour for accomplishments in science and culture.
Additional information and materials about Joseph Kosuth are available on request in Art, Architecture and Planning at the University of British Columbia Library.