Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed.
27/04/13 – 22/06/13
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present a major exhibition of works by acclaimed
American artist Joseph Kosuth, in his first solo show in Berlin in 20 years. Featuring work dating from 1965
through to today, 'Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed.' will for the first time offer an extensive overview of the
artist’s work in neon, chronicling a 50 year-long investigation into the production and role of language and
meaning within art, and an on-going use of neon, a material appropriated in the 1960’s first by Kosuth who
considered it a form of ‘public writing’, without fine art associations, and traditionally associated with popular
The exhibition will feature 26 of Kosuth’s neon works, showcasing key early compositions including one of the
artist’s first neons Five Fives (to Donald Judd) [orange], (1965), alongside recent works such as elements from
his Beckett series (2011). Constructed in a way that actively responds to the gallery’s specific architectural
space, the colourful retrospective will be installed across the length of the top floor of the gallery, utilising some
never before used areas for display purposes.
An important pioneer of Conceptual Art, Kosuth is credited with initiating appropriation strategies, language
based works and the use of photography in the 1960’s. The artist’s investigations into language and perception,
and the appropriated use of literature, philosophy as well as psychology characteristically take the form of
works in series, a practice that allows capacity for play and reflexivity in direction. The exhibition will include
works from the celebrated Freud series (1986-1989) in which Kosuth puts meaningfully into play the
psychoanalyst’s texts using wall pieces and installations. Fetishism (Corrected) (1988) consists of an enlarged
reproduction of a page proof, the opening of an essay titled in German ‘Fetischismus’, corrected by Freud's
hand. Kosuth extricates the corrections, converting them into cobalt blue neon and mounting them together on
the wall around the framed proof, suggesting the process by which writing is studied and converted into
artifacts, and from artifacts to art. Similar questions of ontology are considered in four works from the wellknown
Wittgenstein series (1989-1993), illustrating the profound influence of the philosopher on Kosuth’s
foundation of thinking, and belief that art should ask questions about itself, as a language engaged in the
production of meaning.
Furthermore, the exhibition will feature three elements from the recent Beckett series (2011). Fabricated in
warm white neon with the front dipped in black paint, the body of work puts into play fragments from two of
Beckett’s writings; the renowned Waiting for Godot and the lesser known Texts for Nothing. The playwright and
artist share a significant concern with meaning; while Beckett approaches the question of meaning by
investigating its absence, Kosuth approaches meaning as something undeniably present and poses questions
about its production, by both artist and viewer.
Joseph Kosuth lives and works in New York and London. He has participated at numerous documentas and
Venice Biennales, and his work is included in most museum collections in the United States, Europe, Australia
and Asia. Awards include the Brandeis Award (1990), the Frederick Weisman Award (1991), the Venice
Biennale Menzione d'Onore (1993), the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French
government (1993) and the Austrian Republic’s Decoration of Honour in Gold (2003). In 1999, in honour of his
work on the Rosetta Stone in a monument in Figeac, the French government issued a 3.00-franc postage
stamp in Figeac, and in 2001 he received the Laurea Honoris Causa doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from
the University of Bologna. In 2012, Kosuth was inducted into the Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres
et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
In 2009, Kosuth’s exhibition entitled ni apparence ni illusion, an installation work throughout the 12th century
walls of the orginal Louvre Palace, opened at the Musée du Louvre in Paris and will become a permanent work
in 2014. His work on the façade of the Council of State of the Netherlands was unveiled in October 2011 and
he is currently working on a permanent work for the four towers of the façade of the Bibliotheque Nationale in
Paris, expected to be completed in 2013. Recent exhibitions include Nichts at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt
(2006) and Texts for Nothing (Waiting for-) Samuel Beckett in play, in connection with A History of Installations,
1965-2011 at Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich (2011).
Sprüth Magers Berlin will also be concurrently presenting solo exhibitions by George Condo and Richard