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The Brooklyn Museum Collection: The Play of the Unmentionable (Joseph Kosuth)

DATES September 27, 1990 through 1990 (date unknown)
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT Contemporary Art
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
  • September 1, 1990 In the latest in the continuing series of site-specific installations in the Grand Lobby of The Brooklyn Museum, conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth has invited a dialogue about what art is in its social and political context. Entitled The Brooklyn Museum Collection: The Play of the Unmentionable, the exhibition consists of approximately 100 works chosen by the artist from the Museum’s permanent collection. Ranging from ancient Egyptian objects to contemporary photographs, they are works that could have been deemed objectionable at the time of their creation because of religious, social, political, or even art historical issues. They will be juxtaposed with works that were once considered acceptable in the cultures in which they were created, but now might be viewed by some as otherwise. The installation will open on September 27 and remain on view through December 4, 1990.

    “Because of the national debate surrounding government support of the arts and, in the view of some, censorship, this is an especially timely project. Our principal purpose, as is the artist’s, is that this will shed further light on the debate with an eye to history,” states Robert T. Buck, Director of The Brooklyn Museum.

    Drawing on the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Museum, Kosuth will create in the Grand Lobby an installation that simulates a traditionally curated exhibition. In a selection ranging from an Egyptian stone relief from 1300 B.C., to a recent work by Barbara Kruger; from a Kashmir sculpture of the 8th century to late 19th-century bronzes by Auguste Rodin; from engraved 17th-century English glassware, to Marcel Breuer’s Bauhaus club armchair, the meaning of cultural production is presented to the viewer to consider.

    Of equal weight within the installation will be enlarged texts, both historical and contemporary, propagandistic and theoretical, which frame and reframe the viewer’s perspective.

    Consistent with the concerns of his work for the past twenty years, Kosuth’s project transcends the traditionally defined aesthetic criterion of what constitutes an artist’s work. It is his opinion that “an artist’s activity consists of making meaning, not simply fashioning objects.” Therefore, while this exhibition serves to address a current issue of concern, censorship, he sees the installation itself as a legitimate part of his activity as an artist.

    Joseph Kosuth was born in Toledo, Ohio, and studied at the Toledo Museum School and the Cleveland Art Institute before moving to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts where he has remained on the faculty since 1967. He is also Professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunste in Hamburg, Germany. One of the original proponents of Conceptual art of the late 1960s, he has had over 100 one-man exhibitions in major museums and galleries in Europe, Canada, and the United States. The Brooklyn Museum is his first solo exhibition in a New York City museum. His collected writings Art After Philosophy and After will be published by MIT Press next spring.

    The exhibition, twenty-fourth in a series of Grand Lobby projects, is organized by Charlotta Kotik, Curator of Contemporary Art. This Grand Lobby Installation is made possible in part by generous private support. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1989 - 1994. 07-09/1990, 135-137.
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  • September 1, 1990 After five years of being off public view, The Vintage Festival by American artist Robert Blum (1857-1903) is again prominently displayed above the five main entrance doors in The Brooklyn Museum’s Grand Lobby. Covered in 1985 so that it would not compete visually with the Grand Lobby contemporary site-specific installation projects, the mural was uncovered for inclusion in the 24th Grand Lobby project, The Brooklyn Museum Collection: The Play of the Unmentionable by Conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. It will be one of approximately 100 works chosen by the artist from the Museum’s permanent collection for the purpose of inviting a dialogue about what art is in its social and political context. It will remain on view for an indefinite time after the the close of the Kosuth installation on December 3, 1990.

    Painted in oil on canvas between 1893 and 1899 in an academic manner and drawing on ancient classical subjects, the mural depicts gracefully dancing life-size figures celebrating an imaginary Roman festival of wine. Measuring 9’ 7” x 48’, the mural was originally commissioned by Alfred Corning Clark as part of a series of murals for the Mendelssohn Hall in New York City. It was to become in Blum’s time his most celebrated work and was donated along with its companion piece, Mood to Music, to The Brooklyn Museum in 1926 by E.S. Clark, F.A. Clark, R.S. Clark, and S.C. Clark.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1989 - 1994. 07-09/1990, 145.
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  • November 1, 1990 The critically acclaimed exhibition The Brooklyn Museum Collection: The Play of the Unmentionable, which is attracting larger than usual crowds to the Museum, has been extended through December 31, almost a month longer than its originally scheduled closing date of December 3.

    The latest in the continuing series of site-specific installations in the Grand Lobby of the Museum, the exhibition, which opened on September 27, is the creation of SoHo conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. It consists of approximately 100 works selected by the artist from the Museum’s permanent collection. Ranging from ancient Egyptian objects to contemporary photographs, they are all works that could have been deemed objectionable at the time of their creation because of religious, social, political, or even art historical issues. Juxtaposed to the art are wall texts selected by Mr. Kosuth from sources as diverse as Adolf Hitler and George Bernard Shaw.

    “In keeping with the concerns of his work for the past 20 years, Mr. Kosuth’s project transcends the traditionally defined aesthetic criterion of what constitutes an artist’s work. Using the collection of The Brooklyn Museum as a kind of ‘ready-made,’ he has created an installation that simulates the traditional curated exhibition. In his opinion an artist’s activity consists of making meaning, not simply fashioning objects, so while this exhibition serves to address a current issue of concern, he sees the installation itself as a legitimate part of his activity as an artist,” writes Charlotta Kotik, Curator of Contemporary Art, who organized the exhibition and the accompanying brochure.

    Although Joseph Kosuth has had 32 museum exhibitions in Europe and four in the United States, this is his first museum exhibition in New York.

    This Grand Lobby Installation is made possible in part by generous private support. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1989 - 1994. 10-12/1990, 169-170.
    View Original

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