Joseph Kosuth: Sean Kelly Gallery

By Meade, Fionn | Artforum International, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Joseph Kosuth: Sean Kelly Gallery


Meade, Fionn, Artforum International


"Don't Just Stand There--Read!" declares the headline of a 1970 review in the New York Times bemoaning "the cultural nihilism of Conceptual Art" in spite of its ability to keep "scoring points...[in] an art scene poisoned by the market mentality." Penned by then-staff writer Peter Schjeldahl, the ambivalent article regarding "a movement which demands so much from its audience in return for so little" was writ large in a light box as part of Joseph Kosuth's Information Room (Special Investigation), a 1970 installation recreated within this exhibition. The reading room is made up of two long wooden tables piled high with paperbacks from Kosuth's library at the time--texts dealing with linguistic philosophy, structural anthropology, and psychoanalytic theory--along with stacks of New York newspapers with such hard-hitting headlines as "US Deaths 165 in Week as Enemy Takes Post Near Phnom Phen, Then is Repulsed," and "World Inflation Spreads Despite Steps to Curb It." Though ostentatious in its heavy intimations of reading prowess (keep in mind Walter Benjamin's salvo when unpacking his library that even the most erudite collections include large swaths that go unread), Information Room is significant as a prototype for discursive installation formats that have since become customary.

That Schjeldahl's review is of two concurrent group exhibitions from that summer--"Information" at the Museum of Modern Art and "Conceptual Art and Conceptual Aspects" at the New York Cultural Center--and singles out Kosuth, featured in both, as the "most didactic practitioner and passionate theoretician" of "Conceptual Art," was made all the more conspicuous by a vitrine of archival documents revealing that the artist ghost-curated the latter show. Such proteanism was common for Kosuth at the time: He cofounded, with Christine Kozlov, and organized significant exhibitions for the East Village's Lannis Gallery (renamed the Museum of Normal Art soon after its 1967 founding) and adopted the pseudonym Arthur R. Rose, under which he wrote reviews and interviewed artists, including himself. …

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