A Zoology of Thinking

Joseph Kosuth

November 19 – December 20, 2015

Press Release

Galleri Brandstrup proudly presents our first exhibition with Joseph Kosuth (1945) titled “A Zoology of Thinking”Over nearly four decades, Kosuth has explored the relationship of art, language, and philosophy, using a wide range of mediaThe exhibition consist of neon works, installations and photographs, comprised of 47 works from 12 different series, produced between 1965 and 2015.

Kosuth is a pioneer of conceptual art and was in 1968 named successor by his predecessor Marcel Duchamp. "A Zoology of Thinking" includes the iconic piece "One and Three Rulers" (1965) from the series "Art as Idea as Idea" which is regarded as a manifesto of conceptual art, and the starting point for Kosuth's artistic production and linguistic research. Through the exhibition, Kosuth analyzes meaning and experiments of thought and words discretionary nature, presented trough older and newer works. 

Kosuth's oeuvre is based on the visualization of the word, and he is known for his use of neon. His texts are presented in different ways in his individual works and explores the relationship between language and meaning as mutable and movable in different contexts. Kosuth has worked with tautological neon works such as “Nineteen Locations of Meaning” (2015) and “Self Defined Subject” (1966) utilizing an existing form of public writing, neon signage from the street. Kosuths use of neon is used to construct a work which avoided a priori being art because of its medium, yet was familiar and linked to popular culture even while its mission was something else.

“Nineteen Locations of Meaning” (2015) is a processual work made up of nineteen neon elements which writes the word “meaning” in nineteen different languages. The work develops and expands each time it is shown as it develops and incorporates a new word for ‘meaning’ from its new cultural-linguistic context. Early on, Kosuth aimed to free art from the limits of how it was made to focus it on ideas, concepts, on the why behind the work. The arbitrary practice is necessary for the kinds of questions that his works addresses, and is available to each viewer as part of their experience of it.

For Kosuth, the new thoughts shaping conceptualism in the 1960’s was based on an idea of modern art being concerned with the limits of different artistic media such as painting, sculpture and lithography. This focus on artistic media has created an acceptance of that the nature of art and its history was a result of formal developments. In “A Zoology of Thinking” Kosuth presents a revalidation of the modern artist Piet Mondrian’s iconic paintings, pointing out how the limitations of painting has been exceeded through history, creating a relationship between Mondrian’s own theoretical textural language and the representation of his canvases. This series focuses on Kosuth’s intentions to make work that emphasized ideas, rather than the traditional focus on forms, colors and materials. 

Kosuth’s later works move away from working with ideas of art and language, to approach the fields of art, science, literature and philosophy through the established works of famous philosophies that were occupied by language and speech. The two works “L.W.'s Last Word” (1991) and “Legitimation #4” (1987) illustrates how Kosuth was deeply influenced by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s thoughts and it has remained as a foundation of his thinking. The series “À Propos (Réflecteur de Réflecteur)” (2014) is a monumental, illuminated labyrinthine installation consisting of eighty-six quotations from dozens of historical as well as contemporary philosophers and intellectuals, inscribed with vinyl lettering on glass, backlit in neon.

Through “A Zoology of Thinking”, Kosuth takes us on a constant exploration of meaning and word discretionary nature. Throughout the exhibition, we are presented to an extraordinary artistry of one of the greatest artists of our time, from Kosuths earliest linguistic research to his later explorations of philosophy.