Joseph Beuys – A Language of Drawing is the subject of a major new Artist Rooms exhibition at Scottish National Galleries Modern 2 from 30th July to 23rd October 2016.
This major, free entry to the public exhibition is really two exhibitions in one. Through four galleries upstairs, we explore in over 110 drawings Joseph Beuys’ work from early post WW2 years through to later work including the finest collection of his Braunkreuz (Brown Cross) works in existence. The second part of the exhibition downstairs looks at the close relationship between the artist and Edinburgh gallery owner/arts innovator Richard Demarco.
Joseph Beuys (1921 to 1986) was an influential and complex individual with an interest in many spheres of life, science, art, biology, (the list goes on) and his art constantly pushed the boundaries of how art could be used to express an individual’s inner thoughts, how we interact with art and objects in our everyday life, art as a medium for spiritual expression and always what exactly is art (the last an un-answerable question of course). Joseph Beuys’ work across many artistic media – drawings, film, music, “actions” -was dividing opinion in his lifetime and in this exhibition will undoubtedly continue to do so.
For my own personal taste, I have a preference for how Joseph Beuys used objects and sculpture and “Felt Suit” is a good example of that for me.
One of the most interesting galleries to me though is one exploring the artist as others saw him – through posters for exhibitions, films (Dillinger) music and of course the Andy Warhol art using the image of Joseph Beuys –“Portrait 1980” (the exhibition’s poster art) and the multi image “After 1980”.
One easily overlooked piece of work is a text poster “Child Molester” used during an Edinburgh Festival exhibition in 1980 to bring an end to corporal punishment in schools.
Joseph Beuys, despite huge international fame, still considered himself a teacher and his own quote from the 1960s gives us his view on his art “To be a teacher is my greatest work of art. The rest is the waste product, a demonstration”.
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Review by Tom King