The Essential Joseph Beuys

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9780262024310: The Essential Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) was one of the most original and influential artists of the twentieth century. Challenging the traditional confines of art, he embraced a broader, philosophically and politically based practice formulated in the dictum "Everyone is an artist." His unique approach to the creative process transformed materials such as felt, fat, honey, blood, wax, copper, and sulfur into fluent and expressive artistic media. Called the most olfactory artist in history, he preferred the smells of the pungent and decaying, just as he favored the indecent, ugly, and disfigured over the polished, shiny, tasteful products of city slickers and social seekers. His long-term radical aims included the introduction of direct democracy through referendum, free access to all educational institutions, and a restructuring of the economy based on ecological necessity.

The Essential Joseph Beuys was inspired by the idea of an imaginary Beuys exhibition unhampered by the problems connected with actual exhibitions, e.g., those of geography, insurance, fragility, and the concerns of lenders. The book provides a definitive survey of the artist's work in every medium in which he worked—drawings and watercolors, sculptures and objects, environments and actions, and multiples and printed works. Arranged chronologically and covering the four decades he was active (1945-1985), the book reflects the changes in Beuys's choice of register, from the soliloquy of his early days to the dialogue of his period as a teacher to the powerful language of his public lectures to international audiences.

In his introductory essay, "A Lament for Joseph Beuys," Alain Borer summarizes the artist's oeuvre, drawing out themes of great complexity and relating them to Beuys' artistic and social milieus.

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Review:

Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), who reached cult status in his native Germany, was perhaps the most important artist to emerge in Europe after WW II; he was certainly the most influential thinker and teacher among artists of the postwar generation. His doctrine was that "every man is an artist," and his more radical aims included a restructuring of the economy and free access to all educational institutions. Beuys considered art a medium for social and political change, and the prosaic materials he employed--felt, animal fat, and wax were among his favorites--had a spiritual dimension and could be invested by the artist with healing power. His iconic "felt suit," for instance, expresses the idea of physical warmth. Arranged chronologically and spanning four decades, this is the only book that provides a definitive survey of this innovative artist's work in every medium--from drawings, sculptures, and printed works to objects, environments, and actions.

About the Author:

Alain Borer is Professor at the École des Beaux-Arts de Tours. He is an art critic, poet, playwright, and Rimbaud specialist.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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Alain Borer
Published by The MIT Press (1997)
ISBN 10: 0262024314 ISBN 13: 9780262024310
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