Joseph Kosuth: À Propos (Réflecteur de Réflecteur) #58

July 5, 2012 - April 28, 2013

Originally part of a monumental, labyrinthine installation, ‘À Propos’ evokes the way philosophy is built on arguments by and with earlier thinkers.

Detail of ‘À Propos (Réflecteur de Réflecteur) #58’, installation at the Jewish Museum, New York. Photo: Bradford Robotham.

One of the founders of Conceptual art, Joseph Kosuth is best known for his pioneering text-based works. Like a number of Conceptual artists, Kosuth has written many theoretical treatises on art. His seminal 1969 essay “Art after Philosophy” is a primer to understanding Conceptualism and sets forth its core premise: that art as an idea is more important than its physical reality.

Over nearly four decades Kosuth has explored the relationships of art, language, and philosophy, using a wide range of media. ‘À Propos (Réflecteur de Réflecteur) #58’ was originally one component in a monumental, labyrinthine installation consisting of eighty-six quotations from dozens of philosophers, fabricated in vinyl letters on glass, backlit in neon. The quotations, affixed to the walls in vertical and horizontal patterns, do not add up to a single worldview but rather form a multiplicity of intellectual voices played out in an intricate intellectual game. The phrase in this piece is taken from the social anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and refers back to Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. ‘À Propos’ thus evokes the way philosophy is built on arguments by and with earlier thinkers.