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article imageReview: Joseph Beuys exhibition in London Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 10, 2016 in Entertainment
London - Joseph Beuys, the German Fluxus, happening and performance artist, is currently the focus of a retrospective exhibit at London's Tate Modern. Digital Journal takes a look.
This is the second article in a three-part series looking at more "conceptual" forms of art. The first article looked at how citizenship can be shaped, defined and reinterpreted through different art media. The third part considers some of the more general items of abstract and conceptual art in one of Tate Modern's main galleries.
Joseph Beuys (1921- 1986) was a sculptor, performance and installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art. Some say much of his work is a ramshackle of urban drivel; to others he predicted a number of events that have come to pass and his philosophy is not only artistic, but provides a road-map for improving human existence.
Beuys was most closely associated with the 1960s art movement called Fluxus. This was an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines.
Most of the experimental artists of the Fluxus period, included Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Dick Higgins and Wolf Vostell, together with musician John Cage.
Performance art as well as physical art featured heavily.
A photograph from one of Joseph Beuys  performance art shows. This one involved the artist spending ...
A photograph from one of Joseph Beuys' performance art shows. This one involved the artist spending three days in a room in New York with a coyote.
Part of the Fluxus intention was "anti-art", aimed at taking jabs at the seriousness of modern art. One of Beuys' concerns was with "transformation", which he saw as the alchemy of one thing turning into another.
Joseph Beuys became involved with art after being shot down during World War II, where he was a German pilot. Beuys' aircraft came down over the Crimea in a snowstorm in 1943. During his recuperation he took up watercolor.
A photograph of Joseph Beuys on display at Tate Modern  London.
A photograph of Joseph Beuys on display at Tate Modern, London.
After World War II, Beuys studied at the Düsseldorf Academy under the sculptor Mataré.
A poster advertising a lecture with Joseph Beuys. The lectures could go on for hours.
A poster advertising a lecture with Joseph Beuys. The lectures could go on for hours.
From this position he flittered between academia, producing art work, and activism.
Joseph Beuys holding a gold cast replica of the crown worn by Czar Ivan The Terrible. The typeface w...
Joseph Beuys holding a gold cast replica of the crown worn by Czar Ivan The Terrible. The typeface was amended by the artist.
Animal images feature in some of Beuys work, reflecting his interest in Christianity, mythology, botany and zoology.
 To be a teacher is my greatest work of art. The rest is the waste product  a demonstration   accord...
"To be a teacher is my greatest work of art. The rest is the waste product, a demonstration," according to Joseph Beuys. Here is one of his animal drawings.
Untitled - Hirsch und Sonne (from Spur I). A horse  perhaps?
Untitled - Hirsch und Sonne (from Spur I). A horse, perhaps?
During the 1960s, Beuys added performance art to his work and begin giving action-performances. Beuys also began to given public lectures, as well as ones to students, which he termed "discourse-discussions."
One of the blackboards used by Joseph Beuys for his lectures. One imagines such a lecture would have...
One of the blackboards used by Joseph Beuys for his lectures. One imagines such a lecture would have been hard to follow!
A man at the gallery studies Joseph Beuys  blackboards. These relate to a lecture titled  The Social...
A man at the gallery studies Joseph Beuys' blackboards. These relate to a lecture titled "The Social Organism", from the early 1970s.
The authorities felt that Beuys lectures were unsuitable for students, and he was dismissed from a professorship he held at the Düsseldorf Academy by the Minister of Science during the 1970s. Following his dismissal Beuys became increasingly active in German politics.
A picture by Joseph Beuys called  Revolution Is Us   from 1972. It is designed to represent the forw...
A picture by Joseph Beuys called 'Revolution Is Us', from 1972. It is designed to represent the forward march of working people during this era.
Joseph Beuys giving an outdoor lecture in 1978.
Joseph Beuys giving an outdoor lecture in 1978.
Despite being out of academia, Joseph Beuys continue to speak regularly in public.
A series of posters presenting Joseph Beuys  public appearances.
A series of posters presenting Joseph Beuys' public appearances.
Here Beuys founded the movement Organization for Direct Democracy Through Referendum, which rejected capitalism and communism, and offered a so-called 'third way' by governing through referendums.
German artist Joseph Beuys  political ideas outlined in conceptual art form.
German artist Joseph Beuys' political ideas outlined in conceptual art form.
An alternative poster, hand amended by Beuys, expounds his political beliefs.
Joseph Beuys  ideas on direct democracy  arranged conceptually.
Joseph Beuys' ideas on direct democracy, arranged conceptually.
Later he became active in the German Green Party. The poster below shows a poster the artist prepared for the green movement during the early 1980s.
An anti-nuclear poster from the 1980s  prepared by Joseph Beuys.
An anti-nuclear poster from the 1980s, prepared by Joseph Beuys.
One of Beuys' best known works is Lightning with Stag in its Glare (1958-85). The exhibit is designed to address the themes of finality and death.
One of three parts of Joseph Beuys  sculpture in Yate Modern.
One of three parts of Joseph Beuys' sculpture in Yate Modern.
The second part of Joseph Beuys  major sculpture; confused museum goers look on.
The second part of Joseph Beuys' major sculpture; confused museum goers look on.
The third and final part of the sculpture. The triangular shaped metal is intended to represent a li...
The third and final part of the sculpture. The triangular shaped metal is intended to represent a lightening strike.
The sculpture absolutely resists logical explanation. The tall structure is intended to represent a bolt of lightning.
What to make of Beuys today? Out of the context of the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, some of it does appear stark and little basic. Imagined in the context of the time, some it seems daring and challenging. As with any art, it is, at the end of the day, what the person who perceives it wants to make of it.
As Beuys' himself once said: "The work of art enters into the person and the person internalises the work of art as well, it has to be possible that these two completely sink into each other ... Art enters into the person and the person enters into the work of art, no?”
More about Joseph Beuys, fluxus, Art, Tate modern, London
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