1 styczeń 2010
University of California Press
Peter Chametzky
Objects as History in Twentieth-Century German Art: Beckmann to Beuys
Two years after Beuy's death the Viennese artist Gottfried Helnwein created a striking and odd image bringing Breker and Beuys together. Helnwein posed the eighty-eight-year old Breker unconfortably holding Helnwein's portrait of Beuys in front of his chest. The older man with furrowed brow directs the glossy, skeletal image of Beuys-like an icon painting-away from his own gaze and toward that of the viewer.
Arno Breker holding a Picture of Joseph Beuys
silver print, 1988, 99 x 66 cm / 38 x 25''
Two years after Beuys's death the Viennese artist Gottfried Helnwein created a striking and odd image bringing Breker and Beuys together. Helnwein posed the eighty-eight-year-old Breker uncomfortably holding Helnwein's portrait of Beuys in front of his chest. The older man with furrowed brow directs the glossy, skeletal image of Beuys -- like an icon painting -- away from his own gaze and toward that of the viewer. The image asserts the generational relationship between Breker and Beuys as sculptors and cultural figures and also positions Breker as a pathetic father figure making public his own confused feelings after the death of an estranged son. Breker is dressed in his white sculptor's smock, presenting the surgeon-like image he favored and that was the preferred self-presentation of sculptors, especially Breker, as respectable, trained professionals in the Third Reich, in contrast to prewar bohemians. This was an artistic self-conception and presentation that Beuys abhorred. Looking back on his "key experiences," he recounted being revolted by a sculpture professor in the early 1950s: "He approached me almost like a surgeon, wearing a white smock, with modeling tools instead of a stethoscope.... He wouls say, 'Look, you haven't got the muscle right at all,' then he would tap on the studio model, on the muscle. As if art could be built up from the muscle." In contrast to the artist as a doctor dressed for the operating theater, who takes off this sterile uniform when performing other social functions -- such as receiving awards, attending openings, or going to the theater -- Beuys practiced art itself as social theater. He costumed himself as such, in his signature many-pocketed sports vest, broad-brimmed hat, and jeans, presenting himself as a cross between a fisherman, a survivalist, a proletarian, and a clown. He was instantly recognizable and always in role.
Beuys also rejected his professor's and Breker's obsession with muscles. He chose the bodily antipode to muscle, fat, as his preferred material metonym for the human body and metaphor for the human condition, his antidote to the Nazi "armored body." Nazi commentators interpreted hte hard materials of architecture and architectural sculpture as embodying the force of the Führer's words. Beuys's soft materials, often displayed low on the ground, prone rather than erect,embody their effects. Breker's sculpted figures attack, whereas Beuys wrapped himself and many of his objects in a protective layer of felt. Beuys's work literally reeks of victimhood and provoked defensive responses: laughter, anger and resistance. Beuys claimed that he cose fat as a preferred sculptural material due to its "flexibility... its reactions to temperature changes. This flexibility is psychologically effective -- people instinctively feel it related to inner processes and feelings.... People started to laugh, get angry, or try to destroy it."
This book provides a stimulating overview of twentieth-century German art, focusing on some of the period's key works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Hannah Hoch, Willi Baumeister, Arno Breker, Joseph Beuys, and Gerhard Richter. In Peter Chametzky's innovative approach, these works become representatives rather than representations of twentieth-century history. That is, the art here does not simply illustrate an argument, the art is the argument. Chametzky draws on both scholarly and popular sources to demonstrate how the works (and in some cases, the artists themselves) interacted with, and even enacted, historical events, processes, and ideas. He asserts the continued historical role of material art works in an era when less material forms - photography, film, television, video, digital images - have assumed the function of visually depicting contemporary history.
The author
Peter Chametzky is Professor of Art History and Director of the School of Art and Design at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is a contributor to The Built Surface: Architecture and the Pictorial Arts from Romanticism to the Twenty-First Century.
# Hardcover: 286 pages
# Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (November 2, 2010)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0520260422
# ISBN-13: 978-0520260429




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