Related themes


Language and Art

Explore the role words played in Conceptual art’s emphasis on ideas over visual forms.


One and Three Chairs

Joseph Kosuth
(American, born 1945)

1965. Wood folding chair, mounted photograph of a chair, and mounted photographic enlargement of the dictionary definition of "chair", Chair 32 3/8 x 14 7/8 x 20 7/8" (82 x 37.8 x 53 cm), photographic panel 36 x 24 1/8" (91.5 x 61.1 cm), text panel 24 x 24 1/8" (61 x 61.3 cm)

In One and Three Chairs, Joseph Kosuth represents one chair three ways: as a manufactured chair, as a photograph, and as a copy of a dictionary entry for the word “chair.” The installation is thus composed of an object, an image, and words.

Kosuth didn’t make the chair, take the photograph, or write the definition; he selected and assembled them together. But is this art? And which representation of the chair is most “accurate”? These open-ended questions are exactly what Kosuth wanted us to think about when he said that “art is making meaning.” By assembling these three alternative representations, Kosuth turns a simple wooden chair into an object of debate and even consternation, a platform for exploring new meanings.

The visual portrayal of someone or something.

A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

Multimedia

LISTEN UP!
AUDIO: Kosuth on his career; Curator Ann Temkin on One and Three Chairs