GALLERY WEEKEND BERLIN #05 / Joseph Kosuth at Sprüth Magers
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers 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.” offers for the first time 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 features 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 is 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 includes 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 features 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.
until 22 June 2013
Joseph Kosuth, “Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed.” installation view at Sprüth Magers, Berlin, 2013
Joseph Kosuth, Ulysses, 18 Titles and Hours, 1998
Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers, Berlin