MAZZOLENI TURIN is proud to present a double project with American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945), opening in October at its exhibition space in Piazza Solferino. Colour in Contextual Play. An installation by Joseph Kosuth, curated by Cornelia Lauf, exhibited last Spring in the London premises of the gallery to international acclaim, includes works by Enrico Castellani (b. 1930), Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), Yves Klein (1928–1963), Piero Manzoni (1933– 1963), and Kosuth himself. This project, installed in the historic piano nobile rooms of Mazzoleni Turin, runs concurrently with a new exhibition, Neon in Contextual Play: Joseph Kosuth and Arte Povera devised especially for Mazzoleni Turin and installed in the ground floor space, is focused on the use of Neon in the work of Joseph Kosuth and selected Arte Povera artists Mario Merz (1925–2003), Pier Paolo Calzolari (b. 1943) and Emilio Prini (1943–2016).
Colour in Contextual Play juxtaposes monochrome works by Castellani, Fontana, Klein and Manzoni with works from Kosuth’s 1968 series Art as Idea as Idea. This series made a conceptual investigation into the relationship between words, ideas and objects. It comprised photographs of dictionary definitions of words including ‘meaning’ and ‘idea’. For Colour in Contextual Play Kosuth creates a site-specific installation that places the examples ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘grey’, ‘red’, ‘green’, ‘yellow’ and ‘violet’ in company with works by the other artists utilising those colours. Colour, or its absence, is a theoretical as well as aesthetic consideration in all the works on display. The artists share an uncompromising analysis of conceptual structures that interrogate the nature of space, colour, form and time. From raised canvases punctuated by nail points (Castellani), to an indigo so profound it received its own Pantone number (Klein), explorations of the space beyond colour (Fontana) and natural colour that was also a non-colour (Manzoni), each artist explored the nature of vision in depth over the course of their careers.
The artist selection in Colour in Contextual Play was the suggestion of Emilio Prini. Lauf initially invited Prini to mount a monographic exhibition for Mazzoleni London, but in typical fashion, Prini counter-proposed a quintet of artists including himself. A few months before his untimely passing in 2016, Prini requested that Joseph Kosuth, a long-standing colleague, replace him. Cornelia Lauf has stated: 'Thus, one of the most important proponents of the Arte Povera group extended the notion of Italian art, to show the transnational dialogue uniting artists, evidenced also by his selection of Yves Klein.' Prini’s lifelong adherence to subtraction and economy distinguish him as one of the most radical, though least-known, members of Arte Povera, a movement identified by the influential art historian and curator, Germano Celant, in 1967. Prini often reflected on colour himself, confirming this exhibition’s theme as a fitting theoretical matrix uniting all of the artists.
Arte Povera is the link that unifies this project with the new concurrent parallel exhibition Neon in Contextual Play devised by Joseph Kosuth especially for the Mazzoleni Turin space. Turin is particularly important for Kosuth for being the location of his first solo exhibition in Italy, 15 Locations 1969/1970 Art as Idea as Idea 1966 – 1970, in 1970. Moreover, as Arte Povera was arguably one of Turin’s major contributions to art history, with many of the artists within the group calling it home, it seemed a fitting schema for Kosuth to create a second project with his neon works alongside those by Arte Povera artists who also used the industrial material from the late 1960s. Included are an important Fibonacci sequence work by Mario Merz titled Piccolo caimano (1979), on loan from a private collection, and two works by Pier Paolo Calzolari. A work by Emilio Prini–the 1967 Gradino tipo per porta is additionally a poignant homage to the artist behind the genesis of this exhibition project and an important physical manifestation of his imprint on the conceptual structure behind it.
Joseph Kosuth’s works in neon include the 1965 One and Eight A Description, and the 1966 Object and Subject. As Cornelia Lauf has suggested in her text for the accompanying book, they represent the artist’s early attempts to distil meaning and create a contemporary language after the seeming exhaustion of painterly pictorial modes. Kosuth’s centrality within the early understanding of Arte Povera as an international movement is underlined in Lauf’s text as much as by the dynamic installation.
The two exhibitions together examine thoroughly the connections created from the dissemination of words, objects, colour and light that engender new perspectives of perception and interaction between language and reality. Kosuth has often stated that his work is centred on exploring the limits of language. This is clearly in evidence in these installations as colour and light challenge the capacities of language at a primary level.
The installations call to mind other cross-historical exhibitions by Kosuth, including The Play of the Unmentionable at the Brooklyn Museum (1990) and The Play of the Unsayable: Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Art of the 20th Century at the Vienna Secession and the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (1990), as well as installations of Magritte, Ad Reinhardt and others.
The exhibitions are accompanied by fully illustrated books: one dedicated to the Colour section, and one dedicated to the Neon installation. This double volume publication, created by Joseph Kosuth, is published by NERO and includes essays by Cornelia Lauf, an interview with Joseph Kosuth, and selected artist writings with texts both in English and Italian.
Works by Joseph Kosuth–Courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma Milan/Naples.
Press release courtesy Mazzoleni.