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July 23 Art Minute: Joseph Kosuth, P.G. #9 (I see what I see.)

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum, art, artminute, art of the week
Joseph Kosuth (American, born 1945), P.G. #9 (I see what I see.). Cobalt blue neon, 1991. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey. 2018.11a-d

Toledo, Ohio-born Joseph Kosuth is one of the pioneers of conceptual art and installation art. His work has consistently explored the production and role of language and meaning in art. P.G. #9 (I see what I see.) is among the many language-based works Kosuth made using neon lights and a transformer, many of which were inspired by the writings of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951).

Kosuth’s phrase “I see what I see” is a tautology. In logic and linguistics, as established largely by Wittgenstein, a tautology is a statement of fundamental fact or truth which is unchangeable and irreversible, even if rephrased in any way possible. In Kosuth’s work, the meaning of the phrase is equated with how the words are visualized. In this case, the words are formed from blue neon tubes. Kosuth plays with linguistic and verbal literalness by giving us a visual equivalent in the neon letters to the meaning of the text, regardless of its form.

This work is currently on view in the exhibition Sights & Sounds: Art, Nature and the Senses.