ONE AND THREE CHAIRS, JOSEPH KOSUTH, 1965

We already spoke about Conceptual Art, and Joseph Kosuth is one of the most eminent personalities of this movement.

This work, which is nothing but a chair and two canvases, is actually one of the most important artwork of contemporary art history, you will understand why at the end of this article!

In this picture we can see three elements: one actual chair (no one can sit on though!), the photograph of the same chair, and the definition of the word “chair”. Following the title, the artist wanted to demonstrate how the idea of a chair is made up of all these three aspects: the object, the representation of the object, and the definition of the language we use to indicate it. For this reason, the artist could have chosen any object, the choice of the chair has no particular meaning (maybe he had a fetish for chairs??).

Does it remind you of something? We are getting to the boring stuff: philosphy. This is why this work is so important, because it is a philosophical work. It recalls the philosophy of Plato (which I am not entitled to talk about, so take it with criticism), who theorized the existence of a Hyperuranium, a sort of over-dimention where all the objects and the concepts we know exist there in the form of ideas. For example, even if there are millions of different chairs in our world, including the ones which got destroyed and the ones that have to be built, there is a single idea of “chair” in the Hyperuranium.

This is what Kosuth is referring to, trying to visualize this “idea”, that is purely conceptual though.

Immagine correlata
Renèe Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1928-29

There is another reference to mention: Magritte! In the work known as Ceci n’est pas une pipe, the surrealist artist was making a statement about the relationship the exists between art and reality. With this work Magritte is saying that art could never be so realistic to become reality, but will always be just a representation of it. If you asked someone “What do you see in this painting?”, the obvious answer would be “A pipe!”, but Magritte is saying that the correct answer should be “The representation of a pipe”. Why am I saying all of this? Well, Joseph Kosuth is contributing to this discourse, inserting the aspect of language into it. He also believes that with his artwork the ideal concept of an object is complete, going beyond what Magritte said fourty years before.

Tell us what you think about this work!

– M.C.

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