Andy Warhol Joseph Beuys (F & S II.242 - 244)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Joseph Beuys (F & S II.242 - 244) Year 1980 Size 44″ x 30″ / 40″ x 20″ Medium Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board/Arches Cover Black Paper Edition Two Portfolios of 3
Andy Warhol Joseph Beuys (F & S II.242 - 244)Meaning & History
"As a fluent portrait artist, Warhol is able to fuse elements of the sitter’s personality whilst maintaining his distinctive visual language."
Joseph Beuys is a screenprint published in three states by Warhol in 1980-3 of the German conceptual artist.
The screenprint is a particularly fascinating one because it stands out against Warhol’s portraits of the upper echelons of society and figures of popular culture. Though a contemporary artist of Warhol, Beuys in many ways could not be more different than Warhol. He was a pioneer of the Fluxus movement, which had weighty intellectual and philosophical underpinnings, and most importantly, was explicitly dedicated to political and social causes. Beuys’ performance art piece, I like America and America Likes Me explicitly concerned the differences between Native America and Americans. Adding to a sense of irony in his portrayal by Warhol, Beuys had refused to visit America for some time over his disapproval in its involvement in the Vietnam war.
With two such contrasting characters, one German and American, one a political commentator, and one a proponent of superficiality, what was it that led Warhol to depict Beuys in the present work? The answer lies in the two meeting in 1979 in New York. The two engaged in polite conversation, and Warhol swiftly asked if he could take a polaroid of the artist. Although Beuys obliged, art critic David Bourdon noted that the encounter had ‘all the ceremonial aura of two rival popes meeting in Avignon’. This is particularly apt as they were both two giants of modern art at different ends of the spectrum. Nevertheless it seems Warhol admired Beuys, as he commented ‘I like the politics of Beuys. He should come to the U.S and be politically active there.. He should be President.’
As a fluent portrait artist, Warhol is able to fuse elements of the sitter’s personality whilst maintaining his distinctive visual language. Beuys appears in his trademark boiler hat and suit. Notably, Warhol has only colourised the image in each state, but not used his signature artists colour papers to create his characteristic Pop Art colour blocks. Subjectively this can be seen to express Warhol’s respect for the conceptual artist as he keeps a serious tone to the image.
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