Josef Strau was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1957. Strau is a multifaceted personality and as a writer he composes his own literary texts. In the 1980s and 1990s he worked as an exhibition organizer and gallery owner in Cologne and Berlin. Together with Stephan Dillemuth he ran Friesenwall 120 in Cologne from 1990 to 1994 and Galerie Meerrettich, Glaspavillon Volksbühne Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin from 2002 to 2006, before becoming active as an artist himself.
He participated in numerous group exhibitions, including the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, in 2022; the Busan Biennale, Busan, South Korea, and the Neues Museum Nürnberg in 2020; the Kunsthalle Bern in 2017; the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2016; Museum Stiftung Ludwig (mumok) Vienna in 2015; the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, and the Liverpool Biennale in 2014,the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, in 2013; the Generali Foundation, Vienna, in 2012; and the SculptureCenter, Long Island City, New York, USA, in 2011. Solo exhibitions dedicated to him include, 2020 Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2017 Künstlerhaus Bremen, 2015 Secession, Vienna, 2014 The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago and 2008 Malmö Konsthall, Sweden. Josef Strau lives and works in Berlin and New York.
In his contribution to the exhibition catalogue Make Your Own Life: Artists In and Out of Cologne (2006), Josef Strau coined the term “nonproductive attitude” to describe an artistic attitude of the late 1980s, which, at times radical in form, questioned the “nonproduction” of art’s value economies. For Strau, his written works—whether as author and writer of texts for art journals or in connection with his own artistic output—were to become the pivotal form of expression that was to give shape to “nonproductive production” and its ambivalence and inconsistencies. His thoroughly biographical texts, at times hedged and cast in a kind of exterior perspective, are drafts of various models of authorship and subjectification that resist simple readings or co-optation. In his exhibitions, Strau brings together those modes of textual production—written, transcribed, drawn, layered, and rejected texts—mostly with the use of lamp objects or architectonic spaces in the form of letters of the alphabet. These structures, such as the “children’s tunnel” that Strau has realized in a new and adapted form for the exhibition Counter-Production for the Generali Foundation in Vienna and which was purchased for the collection, not only mediate between textual and real spaces but also mirror the different facets and phases that Strau's artistic production has gone through: from junk dealer, director of a gallery, and author to artist. In a discreet and subtle manner he brings into play those value economies to which the many forms of production and nonproduction, as well as the various media he uses, such as text and secondhand objects, are subject.read more read less