Joseph Beuys: Fond sculptures, Codices Madrid drawings (1974), and 7000 Oaks, a permanent installation furthering Beuys' Documenta 7 project

October 9, 1987–June 19, 1988, Dia:Chelsea

Overview

Joseph Beuys viewed his Fonds as batteries—devices for receiving, storing, and sending energy. Stacked piles of felt supported by copper plates symbolized protective insulation, while the conductive qualities of the metals implied transmission. The charged nature of these works was palpable when standing next to the tall U-shaped rounds. Felt absorbed the surrounding sound waves, resulting in a dull pulsating silence, which gave the impression that the sculpture was literally teeming with energy. Beuys’s practice of Social Sculpture, an effort to explore the power of art to affect social and political change, instilled a sense of agency within these works, allowing the material forms to radiate from within.

In 1974 Joseph Beuys conceived an edition of one thousand sketchbooks inspired by the discovery of two “lost” Leonardo da Vinci sketchbooks in the 1960s. Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen zu den beiden 1965 wiederentdeckten Skizzenbücher “Codices Madrid” von Leonardo da Vinci (Joseph Beuys: Drawings After the Codices of Madrid of Leonardo da Vinci in 1965) was a unified body of these drawings, exhibited for the first time in 1998. This series of drawings elucidated Beuys’s commitment to affect a marriage between art and science by referencing Leonardo’s Codices Madrid, which for Beuys embodied “the unification of art and natural science.” The artist conducted extensive research on da Vinci’s notebooks in an effort to expand his own practice and reach a wider audience through publication. An edition detailing the exhibition was published in 1999.

Artist

Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1921. He died in Düsseldorf in 1986.

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Books

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Photo: Ethan Harrison

Joseph Beuys: Drawings After the Codices Madrid of Leonardo da Vinci

This publication studies and documents the encyclopedic series of drawings by Joseph Beuys.

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