Paul Kos was born in 1942 in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and currently lives and works in San Francisco. From the late 1960s to the 1970s, Kos was a leading figure of the early Bay Area Conceptual Art movement, which experimented with performance, new media, and installation, emphasizing ideas over form and employing a minimal aesthetic. He helped define a West Coast approach to form that privileged the use of materials to examine perception, social relations, and daily life. Like many Bay Area artists, Kos was influenced by the tide of local interest in Buddhist culture. One of the defining characteristics of his work is a sense of play; indeed, many of his pieces refer to and are organized around games such as pétanque, pool, and chess.

Kos has exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco (2011 and 2008), Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia, Athens (2009), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2009), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (2009), Esso Gallery, New York (2008), the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2007), the San Francisco Art Institute (2006), the Berkeley Art Museum (2002), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2001). The traveling exhibition Everything Matters: Paul Kos, a Retrospective was shown in 2003 at the Berkeley Art Museum; Grey Art Gallery, New York University; the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; and Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati. He has shown in group exhibitions at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2013, 2011, and 2007), SOMArts, San Francisco (2013), Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine (2013), the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Oregon (2012), the San Francisco Art Institute (2012), the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (2012), the Berkeley Art Museum (2012, 2010, and 2008), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011), the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009), the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2008), the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Taiwan (2001), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2001), among many others.