Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present a major exhibition of works by acclaimed American artist Joseph Kosuth, in his first solo show in Berlin in 20 years. Featuring work dating from 1965 through to today, Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed will for the first time offer an extensive overview of the artist’s work in neon. This chronicals a nearly 50 year-long investigation of the production and role of language and meaning within art, and an on-going use of neon, a material appropriated in the 1960’s first by Kosuth who considered it a form of ‘public writing’, without fine art associations, and traditionally associated with popular culture.
The exhibition will feature 26 of Kosuth’s neon works, showcasing key early compositions including one of the artist’s first neons Five Fives (to Donald Judd) [orange], (1965), alongside recent works such as elements from his Beckett series (2011). Constructed in a way that actively responds to the gallery’s specific architectural space, the colourful retrospective will be installed across the length of the top floor of the gallery, utilising some never before used areas for display purposes.
An important pioneer of Conceptual Art, Kosuth is credited with initiating appropriation strategies, language based works and the use of photography in the 1960’s. The artist’s investigations into language and perception, and the appropriated use of literature, philosophy as well as psychology characteristically take the form of works in series, a practice that allows capacity for play and reflexivity in direction. The exhibition will include works from the celebrated Freud series (1986-1989) in which Kosuth puts meaningfully into play the psychoanalyst’s texts using wall pieces and installations. Fetishism (Corrected) (1988) consists of an enlarged reproduction of a page proof, the opening of an essay titled in German ‘Fetischismus’, corrected by Freud's hand. Kosuth extricates the corrections, converting them into cobalt blue neon and mounting them together on the wall around the framed proof, suggesting the process by which writing is studied and converted into artifacts, and from artifacts to art. Similar questions of ontology are considered in four works from the well-known Wittgenstein series (1989-1993), illustrating the profound influence of the philosopher on Kosuth’s foundation of thinking, and belief that art should ask questions about itself, as a language engaged in the production of meaning.
Furthermore, the exhibition will feature three elements from the recent Beckett series (2011). Fabricated in warm white neon with the front dipped in black paint, the body of work puts into play fragments from two of Beckett’s writings; the renowned Waiting for Godot and the lesser known Texts for Nothing. The playwright and artist share a significant concern with meaning; while Beckett approaches the question of meaning by investigating its absence, Kosuth approaches meaning as something undeniably present and poses questions about its production, by both artist and viewer.
Joseph Kosuth lives and works in New York and London. He has participated at numerous documentas and Venice Biennales, and his work is included in most museum collections in the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia. Awards include the Brandeis Award (1990), the Frederick Weisman Award (1991), the Venice Biennale Menzione d'Onore (1993), the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1993) and the Austrian Republic’s Decoration of Honour in Gold (2003). In 1999, in honour of his work on the Rosetta Stone in a monument in Figeac, the French government issued a 3.00-franc postage stamp in Figeac, and in 2001 he received the Laurea Honoris Causa doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Bologna. In 2012, Kosuth was inducted into the Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
In 2009, Kosuth’s exhibition entitled ni apparence ni illusion, an installation work throughout the 12th century walls of the orginal Louvre Palace, opened at the Musée du Louvre in Paris and will become a permanent work in 2014. His work on the façade of the Council of State of the Netherlands was unveiled in October 2011 and he is currently working on a permanent work for the four towers of the façade of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, expected to be completed in 2013. Recent exhibitions include Texts for Nothing (Waiting for-)’ Samuel Beckett in play, at the Australian Center for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2010) and – in an extended version – at the Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich (2011).
Press release courtesy Sprüth Magers.
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