Matter and Meaning in the
Work of Art: Joseph Kosuth's
One and Three Chairs
The very stuff of art is indeed greatly related to 'creating' propositions.
(Joseph Kosuth, 'Art After Philosophy')1
My interest in Joseph Kosuth's assemblage, One and Three Chairs of 1965 (see Illustration 5), is in the way in which it requires us to consider how meaning is embodied within the work of art. In his discussion of Conceptual Art the art historian Hans Belting said that this work, [proposed a thesis that could have been voiced at any time, even a century earlier. But the proposition could not have been exhibited as art until the mid-1960s.]2 This statement is interesting but problematic. The idea that any work of art 'proposes a thesis' or 'presents a proposition' is problematic. For it seems to imply that we can expect some determinate meaning from a work of art. Yet a common assumption is that although works of art are subject to interpretation, whatever is communicated, at least in its presentation as a work of art, is not equivalent to any determinate
1 Joseph Kosuth, 'Art After Philosophy, I and II', Studio International (October 1969); repr. in G.
Battcock (ed.), Idea Art (New York: Dutton, 1973), 81.
2 Hans Belting, Art History after Modernism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 20.