Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) – sculptor, painter, draughtsman, teacher, theorist and political activist – ranks among the most radical and influential artists to emerge during the second half of the twentieth century. An enigmatic figure whose complex imagination drew on his research across a wide range of themes – including mythology, zoology, botany and the spiritual theories of Rudolf Steiner – Beuys strove to establish a truly democratic approach towards artistic creativity, and prove that modern art need not be confined to the museum or the gallery.
This book illustrates how from Beuys’s provocative ‘Actions’ of the 1960s and 1970s, to his ambitious environmental project 7000 Oaks – which would lead to the mass planting of trees in a series of events that continued after his death – he was never one to shun controversy. His anti-authoritarian approach gained him respect and notoriety in equal measures. As Antliff effectively demonstrates, the ecological and political issues that informed much of Beuys’s art can be considered as relevant today as they were in his own lifetime.