His work is the result of a critical reflection on on how meaning is generated in art, a questioning process of the very idea of art. For him an art work does not consist of an object, but is part of a complex structure that determines the meaning of the work. Part of that structure includes the context in which the art work is exhibited. Language also plays an important role.
Since 1968 Kosuth has been making a series of works in which he explores how this context influences the way in which a work is perceived. The first work in this series is The Second Investigation from 1968-1970 that was purchased by the museum in 1981. The work utilizes ‘The Synopsis of Categories’ from Roget’s Thesaurus. Kosuth’s project, to return to the world fragments of its own destricption, were distributed all over the world via newspaper and magazine ads as well as via leaflets, posters, banners and billboards. Kosuth used this ‘Synopsis’, a categorical description of the world, as a device for his investigation into our thinking about art. The various public media used gave him the opportunity to get away from the restrictions of a traditional media-defined art such as painting as well as to avoid distribution channels like galleries and museums.
The Second Investigation is a major work within Conceptual art in general and within Kosuth’s own body of work in particular. As the work is seminal in this history and has yet to undergo a focused study, Kosuth was invited to make an exhibition and catalogue based on this work. As well as The Second Investigation Kosuth is also presenting a new installation in the tower utilizing billboards and banners which represent the history of his use of public media between 1968 and 2003. In the smaller rooms around the tower photographs and light boxes give an overview of these billboards ‘in situ’. The exhibition is a sequel to, and an extension of, a display of work in the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston, in 1997.