Galerie Thomas Celebrates Two Postwar Giants: Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik

Apr 13, 2016 11:08PM

In celebration of two influential postwar artists—the German Joseph Beuys and Korean Nam June PaikGalerie Thomas brings together a selection of their sculptures, drawings, multiples, and prints. The heady show, now on view in Munich, offers ample evidence of the artists’ professional and personal relationship in the form of various resonances between their monumental works.

Paik and Beuys first met in Düsseldorf in 1961. Though separated by 11 years and a continent, they were both shaped by World War II and its aftermath; they also shared interests in music, performance, and in pushing art beyond its established boundaries. Both artists were closely involved with the Fluxus movement and likewise embraced one of its central tenets: the total integration of art and life.

Not only did they influence each other, they collaborated, including on performances that focused on the destruction rather than the playing of instruments. They also collaborated on EURASIA, an extended artistic and social project in which they sought to break down the East–West binary with work that demonstrated how Asia and Europe could be merged into a holistic entity.

A self-styled shamanic figure, Beuys often incorporated his own life experiences into his work, which encompassed everything from extended performances to spare drawings. Dead animals, felt, fat, blood, and honey were among the recurring materials he called upon, each with symbolic significance. Sleds, as in his silkscreen Hirsch auf Urschlitten (Stag on Primeval Sled) (1985), also figured prominently in his work.

Televisions, video cameras, and other electronic media formed the core of Paik’s installations, sculptures, and performance pieces. (Paik’s pioneering work led to his being dubbed the father of video art.) In I never read Wittgenstein (I will never understand Wittgenstein) (1997), he references the famed Austrian-British philosopher with an antique German TV set broadcasting swirling vortexes of color, as if the philosopher’s message got beautifully twisted in translation on its way from one culture to the other.

Karen Kedmey

Joseph Beuys – Nam June Paik” is on view at Galerie Thomas, Munich, Feb. 19–May 7, 2016.

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