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Text/Context (1978)

Photograph: Lucie Armstrong

JOSEPH KOSUTH: Text/Context (1978)

21st May 2022 - 8th July 2022


Pavement Gallery presents Joseph Kosuth’s ‘Text/Context’ (1978) in an exhibition opening May 2022. A pioneer of conceptual and installation art, Kosuth has consistently explored the production and function of language and its meaning within art since the 1960s.


Originally appearing in 1978 on the window of the Carmen Lamanna Gallery in Toronto, Canada, as one in a series of billboards throughout North America and Europe, ‘Text/Context’ finds itself newly iterated at Pavement Gallery. The paragraphs were written by Kosuth to be read in two public contexts: the street and the art context, i.e. museum or gallery. The texts were first presented anonymously on the street, and were framed by their advertising context. Located in a former drapery store window in Manchester, the text-based work is applied directly to the gallery’s window, straddling the border between the space inside and the street outside. To interact with the empty space from this vantage point the viewer must observe it through the text and is therefore forced to engage with the work. This creates a unique physical and contextual platform within the non-conventional gallery.


With Pavement’s proximity to Manchester School of Art, ‘Text/Context’ looks out onto an educational institution which has a driving ambition to discover and disseminate knowledge. Unlike traditional mediums where the viewer is passive, with ‘Text/Context’ Kosuth invites the audience to become a part of the artwork. Using common language via ‘meaning-making’, he urges that context forms the meaning of content, and therefore puts that meaning into play. Here, the habituated and institutional context of the gallery and the viewer's engagement form the meaning of the text presented.  

Joseph Kosuth lives and works in New York and Venice, Italy. He has been awarded the Brandeis Award, 1990; Frederick Wiseman Award, 1991; the Menzione d'Onore at the Venice Biennale, 1993; and the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government,1993 amongst others. He received a Cassandra Foundation Grant in 1968. In June 1999, a 3.00-franc postage stamp was issued by the French Government in honor of his work in Figeac. In February 2001 he received the Laurea Honoris Causa, doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Bologna, Italy. In October 2003 he received the Austrian Republic’s highest honor for accomplishments in science and culture, the Decoration of Honour in Gold for services to the Republic of Austria. Kosuth’s work titled, ‘ni apparence ni illusion’ opened at the Musée du Louvre, Paris in 2009 and became a permanent installation in 2014. In May 2012 he was inducted into the Royal Belgian Academy. Kosuth’s internationally recognized work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions including the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, Russia; the Kunstmuseums Thurgau, Warth, Switzerland; Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland; and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia, among others. Most recently, in 2019 Kosuth installed permanent public installations at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami, Florida and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California. His work is featured in major private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, NYC; the Tate Gallery, London; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC; the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Louvre Museum, Paris, France; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome among many others worldwide.

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