MCA Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography
Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1972. © 1972 Kenneth Josephson. Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

In partnership with Art Design Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition on Chicago-based photographer Kenneth Josephson who changed the way we think about photography. Josephson's conceptual photography pushes the boundaries of the medium, demonstrating that photographs can convey an idea as well as an image. His work focuses on the unique qualities of a photograph, such as its ability to be cropped, reproduced, circulated, or archived. With visual techniques like taking photographs of photographs, his images often comment on themselves with a wry sense of humor, and anticipated the rise of the selfie in today's world. The exhibition is organized by Lauren Fulton, former MCA Curatorial Research Fellow and Chief Curator Michael Darling.

MCA Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography
Kenneth Josephson, Matthew again, 1980. © Kenneth Josephson.

Influential to artists of all kinds, Josephson has spent his career carefully examining the building blocks of photography. His methods are the result of his years at the Institute of Design, where he studied under photography pioneers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. Examining Josephson's production from 1960-80, Picture Fiction presents his four main ongoing series: Images within Images, Marks and Evidence, History of Photography Series, and Archaeological Series. Largely drawn from the MCA's collection, the exhibition reveals concerns shared by Josephson and conceptual artists emerging in the 1960s, and draws parallels between his practice and those of other contemporary artists, including Roe Ethridge, Jessica Labatte, Marlo Pascual, Jimmy Robert, and Xaviera Simmons, whose work is included in the exhibition.


Kenneth Josephson, born in Detroit in 1932, was a graduate among the first generation of photography candidates from the Illinois Institute of Design. A student of such masters as Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, and Minor White, Josephson went on to teach for 35 years at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he routinely taught the "Introduction to Photography" course as it inspired him to continue experimentation. In his best known image New York State (1970), Josephson pictured his own outstretched arm holding a photograph of a ship superimposed over an ocean horizon. À la René Magritte's Ceci n'est pas une pipe (The Treachery of Images, 1928-29), the image is a reminder that regardless of how real a two-dimensional image may appear, it is still merely an illusion.


Art Design Chicago celebrates the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America's crossroads of creativity and commerce. Led by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this citywide partnership of cultural organizations explores Chicago's art and design legacy with more than 25 exhibitions and hundreds of events throughout 2018.

MCA Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography
Kenneth Josephson, New York State, 1970. Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
MCA Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography
Kenneth Josephson, Stockholm, 1967. © 1967 Kenneth Josephson. Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.


April 28 until December 30, 2018


Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

220 E Chicago Ave

Chicago, IL 60611


Adults - $15

Students, teachers & seniors - $8

Youth 18 and under - Free

IL Residents free on Tuesday


Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art

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