Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reflections on JK

The last couple of posts have involved quotes taken from Art After Philosophy and After. There's a couple of things that are worth mentioning in terms of the subjectivity of the position that I find myself reading from. Firstly, as I've realised through the process of re-reading this book it was pretty important to my development as an artist when I first read it in the second year of my undergraduate studies, and it was important because many of the imperatives that Kosuth identifies are as relivant today as when I first read them, ( re-reading has made me conscious of the fact that I have, up until this point unconsciously incorporated many of the positions Kosuth articulates into the way i think and talk about art). The other aspect of the lens through which I am re-reading Kosuth's writing is that of having seen one of his more recent installations at Sean Kelly Gallery.

Trying to reconcile this work with his more radical writings is a difficult task. If you click on and scroll through the photos in the link above you'll get an impression of the the minimal/conceptual slickness which dominated my experience of this installation. This work is immaculate. From the stainless steel fittings holding up the sheets of glass, to the text and the mounting for the fluros behind, the whole show oozes the very aesthetisization of conceptual practice that Kosuth so eloquently attacks in some of the pieces he wrote soon after conceptual art gained widespread institutional acceptance. So I guess I've been asking myself, what weight does radical theoretical writing hold if it isn't being reflected in practice? Maybe this is a case of what Ian Milliss describes as theory just being another word for (or perhaps worse an excuse for) doing nothing.

But then I can't totally dismiss Kosuth's writing on the basis of how he makes a buck. Sean Kelly is a commercial gallery and the dude has to make a living, (in unsubstantiated rumor i heard that Kosuth once swapped one of his works for a villa in Italy). I guess for me selling work through a commercial gallery or swapping it for prime real estate is perhaps where a more radical work can begin with the art market simply providing the financial resources to pursue other less profitable avenues. However in Kosuth's case I have yet to come across any evidence that this is what he is doing and given his emphasis on the artist fighting for the meaning of their work it seems like either his ideology or his practice has gone astray.


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