3. Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth b. 1945, Toledo, Ohio ‘No Number 3’ [warm white, large version], 1991 Warm white neon mounted directly on wall The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art Gift of Barbara (R1968) and Theodore (R1968) Alfond Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College 2013.34.100 Joseph Kosuth once said, “All I make are models. The actual works of art are ideas.” Kosuth, who rose to prominence during the mid to late sixties, was a major figure in Conceptual art at its critical moment. In his controversial 1969 essay “Art After Philosophy,” he denounced Formalist art and criticism, writing, “Aesthetic considerations are indeed always extraneous to an object’s ‘reason-to-be.’” A student of anthropology and philosophy before he studied art, Kosuth was influenced by the work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was interested in logic and language. Often referring to art in linguistic terms in his writing, Kosuth also incorporates text in his works, which explore language, meaning-making, and the nature of art itself. He intends for his work to function as an analytical tool for examining and changing culture. No Number 3, one of the cornerstone works in the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, reflects Kosuth’s continued interest in language and the nature of art. The phrase “Language must speak for itself” is analogous to his beliefs about art and the production of meaning; in the same way that art expresses the definitions of art, language expresses its meaning through usage. Kosuth is very interested in tautologies and the act of self-reference, No Number 3 reflecting those concerns perhaps more subtly than his earlier works, which often consisted of an object and some form of text that referred back to the materials that made up the object; for instance, Five Words in Red Neon (1965) is a red neon piece that reads, “FIVE WORDS IN RED NEON.”