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Art gallery, Valencia (Spain)


¿Qué tienen en común Joseph Beuys y Joan Brossa? Aparentemente poco …

¿Qué tienen en común Joseph Beuys y Joan Brossa? Aparentemente poco …
Joseph Beuys y Joan Brossa
Mayo 2008

Ricard Mas

"¿Qué tienen en común Joseph Beuys y Joan Brossa? Aparentemente poco …"

FELT AND PLAYING CARDS

What do Joseph Beuys and Joan Brossa have in common? Apparently, not much. Both were seduced by the pathos of the material, the other substance of the scientific positivism. Both defined their art away from the habitual scene, cultivating multidiscipline. Beuys sublime, Brossa deconstructing. Beuys tries to sacralise social relations through communion with nature, dehumanisation through animalisation. Beuys is a Shaman, Brossa the conjurer. Beuys shuts himself in his cage / gallery and teaches the history of art to a dead hare, without irony, with honey and golden bread spread on his face. Brossa lives as a recluse in his flat in Balmes Street, on a mountain of newspaper clippings, and religiously comes out every evening for his film library sessions. The alternative pedagogy by Beuys contrasts with Brossa’s academicism. Joseph Beuys (Kleve 1921 – Düsseldorf 1986) was one of the greatest German artists of the visual arts. After the Second World War he became involved in the world of making monumental sculptures under commission. Later on we elaborated personal, original art taking up the Dadaist tradition again. In 1961 he was appointed Professor of Fine Arts at the Düsseldorf Academy and articulated a participative teaching model with his students which was very politically delicate. He also had relations with the Fluxus international group, especially committed to the happenings, with whom he collaborated on diverse occasions. From 1969 onwards, his art work became involved in political interaction, removed from the traditional channels. In fact, his activities could not be assigned to any specific trend, although he did take part in Arte Povera, Minimal Art and Conceptual Art. His visual art production was closely linked to his status as a cultural agitator. Beuys dressed his art up in tailor-made mythology: during the Second World War his aeroplane was shot down over the Crimea. He was found by a nomadic tribe of Tatars, anointed with animal fat and wrapped in felt. Having been reborn through that method that is equally effective as it is symbolic; he left behind his vocation of paediatrician and took the road of art.

Joan Brossa (Barcelona, 1919 – 1998) started his activity after the Spanish Civil War. Mobilised to the Lerida front, he entertained his colleagues with card tricks and unusual stories. When the conflict ended he was sent to do his military service in Salamanca. There he discovered Freud, psychic automatism and the hypnagogic images – elaborated through day dreams. The poet / baker from Sarrià, J. V. Foix, introduced him to the discipline of poetry, while Joan Miró – through the hatter and sponsor Joan Prats – introduced him to psychic automatism and anti-art. The Brazilian poet and Consul in Barcelona, Joao Cabral de Melo, introduced him to social problems, and the art critic Rafael Santos Torroella, which occupied Cabral’s flat in Barcelona, edited his first great collection of poems: “Em fa fer Joan Brossa” (1950). Finally his friendship with the you painter Antoni Tàpies led him to make a series of art books in collaboration with Fregoli (1969) or Carrer de Wagner (1988). Beuys studied Jung in depth, Leonardo da Vinci and above all James Joyce. From Novalis he took the sentence “everybody is an artist”, and from Steiner, the most social aspects of natural sciences, such as the behaviour of bees. His mind elaborated a tailor made animal house, newly taking up the mystical German tradition, the expressionist spirituality and the social Dadaist Utopia. Brossa meanwhile, made his first poem object: a piece of shiny wrapping paper, he found in the rubbish and exposed, as such, on the support. He discovered cinema, opera and ballet. He became involved in the theatre and wrote his first scripts. He also collaborated with the Dau al Set group, an avant-garde movement that bridged between the post war surrealism and the contemporary trends, resorting to the aesthetics of the magical, primitivism, automatism and collage. Beuys turned his career towards political practice, which led to him being expelled as Professor of monumental visual arts, through initiatives such as the Organisation for a Direct Democracy through Referendum, the Free International University for creativity and inter-disciplinary research, or massive tree-planting projects. This way of seeing art as the driving force behind social change and ideological transformation, positioned him as one of the fathers of new art at the outset of the sixties. Brossa took longer to be acknowledged by the general public, and it did not happen until 1986, the year of his first anthology at the Fundació Miró in Barcelona. Beuys’ and Brossa’s work has been exhibited at institutions such as IVAM [Valencia Modern Art Museum] in Valencia, or the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Queen Sofía National Art Museum) in Madrid, but they have never been exhibited in the same place at the same time. Therefore, this s a special chance to reflect on the artistic dialogue by these two unique figures of contemporary creativity.

Ricard Mas