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A dormeuse by Joseph Kosuth.


Joseph Kosuth (USA): MODUS OPERANDI (1989)

Dormeuse fabricated of solid wood, lacquered base, upholstered in specially-commissioned jacquard fabric / quilted headrest, feather pillow and matching jacquard bed-spread.                



JOSEPH KOSUTH IS an American conceptual artist renowned for creating artwork based on the methodology of inquiring into the nature of art. Crucial to this idea of art is the understanding of the linguistic nature of all art theories, past or present, regardless of the elements used in their fabrication. It has become Kosuth’s “modus operandi” to decipher the subliminal in that which we call the experience of viewing art.

One of his most famous works is “One and Three Chairs,” a visual interpretation of Plato’s concept of the Forms. The work consists of an actual chair, a photograph of that same chair, and a Webster’s dictionary storyboard definition of the word “chair.” The photograph is a representation of the actual chair placed on the floor in the foreground of the entire tableau. The definition, posted on the same wall as the photograph, delineates in words the concept of what a chair is, in its various incarnations. In this seminal work, Kosuth advances tautological statements – each element is literally what it says it is.

Considering the Kosuth “Modus Operandi” dormeuse, an even more subtle inquiry seems to be going on. Based on Sigmund Freud’s actual psychoanalytic couch/chaise (Freud is a crucial figure in Kosuth’s art and thinking), and upholstered in a special jacquard fabric the imagery on which endlessly repeats the frontispiece from Freud’s groundbreaking treatise, Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams), Kosuth has conjured up a “bed of dreams.”

As is often the case in great works of art, “Modus Operandi” dormeuse reveals an unplanned yet “controlled” accident – a side-view of the head-rest shows that in the course of pulling the fabric into a French-twist bolster, the woven Freudian words appear to be spinning “uncontrollably” inwards towards the center – a veritable “vortex of the mind” of whomever might be laying there.

In this cryptic piece, he once again forges a path between the material object and the word.  Through his weaving of memory and invention, the artist shows us a different way in which to interact with the new domestic landscape.

Manufacturer: MEMPHIS Milano srl, Milan, Italy
Collection: Collezione META, 1989
Edition: Limited Edition of Twenty-Five (25) Units Only

75 x 210 x 85 cm


Keith Rennie Johnson is the President and Director of Urban Architecture, Inc., in Brooklyn, NY. The gallery features important twentieth century visual and avant-garde decorative art and for 20 years has been the leading US dealer for Memphis Milano and Museo Alchimia.

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