Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, IL



Kenneth Josephson: A Retrospective

September 25, 1999 - January 16, 2000


Kenneth Josephson (b.1932) was among the first generation of photographers to graduate with a degree in photography from the Illinois Institute of Design, where he studied with Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. He studied photography with Minor White at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Before retirement in 1997 as a teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for over 35 years, Josephson trained two generations of photographic artists. The exhibition contains 150 of Josephson's works.

In conjunction with the exhibition Kenneth Josephson: A Retrospective, The Art Institute of Chicago is publishing a lavishly illustrated catalogue of the same title. The exhibition and the accompanying monograph are the most comprehensive to date on this influential Chicago contemporary photographer.

Kenneth Josephson created works in the 1960s and 1970s that placed him at the forefront of Conceptual photography. These early photographs focused on the act of picture making and offered playful commentary on photographic truth and illusion. Especially memorable from this era are his pictures within pictures. Since then, Josephson has extended his output to include elegant images of India's street life, a series of affectionately witty nudes, and photographs of books folded into whimsical and sensuous forms. Most recently, Josephson has made landscape photographs during a number of trips to Europe.

In these images, the wry nature of his early work has been seasoned by over 40 years of making art. Now in his late sixties, Josephson is producing photographs with a meditative quality, works that, in their beauty and serenity, bear the mark of an artist of long experience. The catalogue Kenneth Josephson: A Retrospective features an essay by Sylvia Wolf, who organized the exhibition while serving as Associate Curator of Photography at The Art Institute of Chicago. (In October 1999, Wolf is assuming a new position as Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art.) In her essay, Wolf offers a new assessment of Josephson's creative process, based on an unprecedented familiarity with his unpublished work. Independent curator, critic, and widely published author Andy Grundberg has also contributed an insightful essay focusing on the groundbreaking and not always recognized place of Josephson's photography within contemporary art. In addition, the catalogue includes a detailed and comprehensive chronology, incorporating material from recently conducted interviews with Josephson, compiled by Stephanie Lipscomb, Research Assistant in the Art Institute's Photography Department. In all, the authors offer the most complete assessment of Josephson's diverse and prolific career to date.

The catalogue reproduces 125 works, many of them unpublished, including recent landscapes, rare vintage photographs, sculptural objects, postcard collages, and a unique set of Polaroid SX-70 photographs.

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For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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