Contemporaneous Extension

Contextual Seduction

I hadn’t really looked too far into Joseph Kosuth prior to discovering his most recent piece ‘Texts (Waiting for–) for nothing’, Samuel Beckett, in play (2011) featured in an exhibition of the same name at Sean Kelley Gallery. If I learned anything from the plethora of research, Kosuth despises spinster critics defaming the meaning of his work and thinks purely formal (i.e. where color, shape, line, composition are the dominant landmarks) criticism/work is as pointless as a necktie. I really respect Kosuth’s emphasis on context, on sustaining the fact that art doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Process has been a preoccupation of mine for quite some time.  My quest for the underbelly of the creative process supports many of his attachments to contextual reading.  A visual journey can also realign completely in the midst of context, allowing one to either understand the imagery or the artist better inevitably. The video below provides a very basic intro to Kosuth’s ambitions from Holy Chic circa March 2010:


This interview between Kosuth and Stuart Martin from Frieze Magazine was one of my favorite interviews I came across. Despite the overwhelming amount of typos, this piece was pioneering. Kosuth divulges thoughts on painters from his generation in New York, his discontents with misinterpretation, and the effects of the market on his practice (among other things). The entire interview can be found here. Below is a particularly poignant short excerpt on critics and writing about art.

Stuart Morgan: Arguments for the conceptual aspects of Reinhardt’s work puts you in an antagonistic position to art historians, not for the rst time. In his catalogue essay for the Reinhardt retrospective in 1991, Yve-Alain Bois proposed a formalist approach.

Joseph Kosuth: Reinhardt was always misunderstood, which means not understood yet. His relationship with The Museum of Modern Art is, of course, legendary, as it was with Clement Greenberg. It is both unfortunate and appropriate that MoMA would be the place Bois’ rather creative piece of revisionist history would nd a publisher. I think it is rather scary for many artists to see the form ambition takes, now, for some of the younger art historians. Historical ction has its place, but it should be correctly labelled. My essay for ‘Symptoms of Interference, Conditions of Possibility’ was a necessary response to Bois.

SM: Are you talking about art historians or critics?

JS: Art history is still the basis of the practice, but it is formed by criticism, and vice versa. Criticism tends to be less objectionable because it is just opinion added to the conversation, take it or leave it. Its subjectivity is dened. Opinion parading as ‘objective’ art historical writing is much more pernicious, and we can thank October for increasing quantities of that. But there is a need for writing which discusses the work’s implications, so that both the work, and the writing on it, stands on its own.

SM: The opposite would be some museum dictate.

JK: Of course. As artists we object to the implication that museum choices are somehow an objective idea of ‘the best’. In contemporary art that’s impossible to assert. One can only introduce ideas into the conversation. I much prefer it when artists make exhibitions, take responsibility for the surplus meaning that the collectivity of individual works produces and don’t try to validate with a list of ‘importance’. That way the integrity of individual works remains intact and art is presented on its own terms.

Joseph Kosuth, '# II 49 (On Color/Multi #1),' 1991. Neon, transformer and certificate of authenticity

Joseph Kosuth, '# II 49 (On Color/Multi #1),' 1991. Neon, transformer and certificate of authenticity

Joseph Kosuth, 'Glass Words Material Described,' 1965, mixed media (4sheets of glass, painted text)

Joseph Kosuth, 'Glass Words Material Described,' 1965, mixed media (4sheets of glass, painted text)

 Joseph Kosuth, 'Nothing,' 1968.

Joseph Kosuth, 'Nothing,' 1968.


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