One and Three Chairs

Joseph Kosuth

Toledo , Ohio, USA, 1945
  • Date: 
  • Descriptive technique: 
    Work consisting of a wood chair, a photograph of the chair and an enlargement of the definition of "chair" in the dictionary
  • Dimensions: 
    Right part: 52 x 80 cm / Left part: 110 x 60 cm / Central part: 81 x 40 x 51 cm
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Joseph Kosuth once wrote: “The art I call conceptual art is such because it is based on an inquiry into the nature of art.” One and Three Chairs is considered one of the first conceptual pieces conceived by the artist, according to a criterion that he himself described as “anti-formalist” and which, tautologically, approaches one single thought process from three separate perspectives: via the object (the chair), its representation or index (the photograph of that same chair), and two linguistic elements (the word that describes the object, and its definition). By doing this, Kosuth is drawing attention to a three-way code of approach to reality: an objectual code, a visual code and a verbal code (reference, representation and language). This is a work representing the seed of conceptual art which certain critics, such as Catherine Millet, have considered, in direct contradiction of Kosuth’s intentions, as an example of formalism, according to Clement Greenberg’s definition: that which exclusively refers to art, to the fact that an artwork only comments on the piece itself. Millet saw this self-definition of the artwork as “the basic norm of the conceptual artist, who built up a complete theoretical system which took in their definition of a work of art, or an artistic process, and their understanding of is progress through reality.”

Carmen Fernández Aparicio