(American, b.1945) is a pioneering Conceptual and installation artist, known for his language-based works. Born in Toledo, OH, Kosuth studied at Toledo Museum School of Design, and later, at the Cleveland Art Institute. In 1965, Kosuth relocated to New York, where he attended the School of Visual Arts, but he soon abandoned painting in favor of conceptual works, creating his first language-based pieces in glass and assemblages.
In 1966, he created the Art as Idea
series, definitions from a dictionary or categories from a thesaurus presented in the form of Photostats, for words such as "blue," "water," and "idea." His early works were first shown in 1967 at a space co-founded by the artist, known as the Museum of Normal Art. In 1969, Kosuth held his first solo show at Leo Castelli
, and became an editor for the Art and Language
Between 1971 and 1972, he studied anthropology and philosophy at the New School for Social Research. During this time, philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Sigmund Freud influenced the development of his art. Kosuth was coeditor of The Fox
magazine between 1975 and 1976, and art editor of Marxist Perspectives
between 1977 and 1978.
In the 1980s, he began using the theories of Sigmund Freud to create works using text and inverted photographs of Old Master paintings. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in 1981.
In 1993, the artist received the Menzione d’Onore at the Venice Biennale, and was named Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2003, Kosuth created three installations in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, using text, archival material, and objects from the museum’s collection as a commentary on the politics and philosophy behind museum collections. Kosuth has also taught widely, at the School of Visual Arts, the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg, the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Stuttgart, and the Kunstakademie in Munich.
Kosuth continually explores the role of appropriation, language, and meaning in art through installations, museum exhibitions, public commissions, and publications. One of his most well-known installations is One and Three Chairs
, which features a wooden chair, a photograph of the chair, and a dictionary definition of the word "chair." Inspired by Plato’s Theory of Forms, Kosuth based this work on the idea that abstract forms or ideas, not the physical world, possess the highest kind of reality. His art has influenced a generation of Conceptual artists, including Jenny Holzer
and Barbara Kruger
Today, his works can be found in numerous institutions around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland, and the Freud Museum in London.
Kosuth lives in New York and Rome, where he teaches at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia.