Joseph Beuys and his work, which spans four decades from 1945 to 1985, constitutes one of the most important and influential contributions to 20th century visual art. Subject to passionate controversy during his lifetime, Beuys’s work is now celebrated and studied at great length.
He was one of the few artists who willingly merged the figure of the artist with their art form, refusing to efface himself from his work. The artist saw himself as a shaman and believed that art has the power to shape and inform society for the better.
Informed by his strong political beliefs Beuys challenged the traditional narrow confines of art to embrace a much broader philosophy formulated in the dictum ‘Everyone is an artist’. 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 book provides a definitive survey and celebrates Beuys’s oeuvre in every medium, including drawings and watercolours, sculptures and objects, environments and actions, multiples and printed works, to reveal a multifaceted creativity. A total of 152 works are arranged in chronological order, demonstrating the artist’s formal versatility, creative richness and conceptual depth. His unique poetic approach to the creative process transforms such materials as felt, fat, honey, blood, wax, copper and sulphur into ever more fluent and unlimited artistic forms.
From the soliloquy in his early days at Cleves to dialogue during his period as a teacher in Düsseldorf to the powerful language of his public lectures, Joseph Beuys transcends the traditional artist to become artist, teacher and revolutionary simultaneously. With an informed analysis from Alain Borer with special reference to the artist’s written and spoken statements, this book is an informed introduction to a unique figure in 20th century art.
Alain Borer is a French poet and writer. He has been a professor at l’Ecole supérieure des beaux-arts de Tours since 1979, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, since 2005.