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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
RÜCKENSTÜTZE EINES FEINGLIEDRIGEN MENSCHEN (HASENTYPUS) AUS DEM 20. JAHRHUNDERT P. CHR.
(BACKREST FOR A FINE-LIMBED PERSON (HARE-TYPE) OF THE 20TH CENTURY AD)
impressed with the signature, date 72 and number 1/2 h.c. on a metal plaque affixed to one of the lower belts
This work is from an edition of 12 plus 2 artist's proofs published by Edition Seriaal, Amsterdam in 1972.
Klaus Kinkel, Baden-Baden
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1988
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Joseph Beuys - Skulpturen und Objekte, 1988, p. 205, no. 65, illustrated in colour
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie & Württembergischer Kunstverein; Tübingen, Kunsthalle; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Vienna, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Sammlungsblöcke. Stiftung Froehlich, 1996-97, p. 249, no. 85, illustrated
Jörg Schellmann, Ed., Joseph Beuys: Multiples, Catalogue Raisonné of Multiples and Prints 1965-85, Munich 1985, no. 64, illustration of another example
Exhibition Catalogue, Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Joseph Beuys - Natur Materie Form, 1991-92, pl. 85, no. 411, illustration of another example in colour
Jörg Schellmann, Ed., Joseph Beuys: Die Multiples, Werkverzeichnis der Auflagenobjekte und Druckgraphik 1965-86, Munich 1992, p. 99, no. 65, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Zurich, Kunsthaus, Joseph Beuys, 1993, p. 89, no. 33, illustration of another example
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Gallery, The Froehlich Collection. German and American Art from Beuys and Warhol, 1996, p. 249, no. 85, illustrated
Alan Borer, The Essential Joseph Beuys, London 1996, no. 122, illustration of another example in colour
Dirk Luckow, Joseph Beuys und die amerikanische Antiform - Kunst, Berlin 1998, p. 198, no. 80, illustrated
Beuys believed in the material energies of all things and that everyone was an artist capable of releasing and transforming these through a combined process of life and art. Rückenstütze gives expression to this belief and also embodies the healing capacity he to gave to art. The anthropomorphically suggestive form of the cast iron Rückenstütze originates from a corset Beuys was given by the daughter of one of his artist friends, and reflects his preference for using unconventional materials like wax, fat and hare's blood for their non-art associations. The delicacy, femininity, strength and flexibility of the corset presented an object of tremendous material energy and diverse association for Beuys, and in casting the flimsy structure into its present iron form he transforms the meaning and properties of the original object also. He gives the new one tremendous physical presence, weight and solidity in a manner that embodies the garment's hidden capacity for strength. The actual process of casting -- taking one form and using it to shape another -- also relates to the moulding function of the corset on the body.
Standing upright as if on two hind legs, Rückenstütze belongs to a series of works that Beuys collectively named 'Arrested Processes' and there is a feeling in this work of the corset being trapped in a frozen state of mid-mutation from object to animal. This zoomorphic suggestion is further conveyed in the title of the work which translates as 'Backrest for a fine-limbed person (hare-type) of the 20th century AD'. Part of Beuys' drive to heal society involved encouraging a reconnection with our primitive, animalistic nature, and he looked to symbols like the hare as embodying a lost state of human innocence. The deep-earthy hue of the iron corset and its extended 'hung-out' presentation suggest an animal fur which gives the corset and its original function the added metaphysical significance as being like a 'backbone' holding together society.
One of the foremost artist's of the Post War generation, he became an hugely influential figure both in Germany and abroad for the gospel of healing he preached through his art and life. Beuys worked through a process of defamiliarization, alienating objects and materials and our relationships to them by re-presenting them in new forms and contexts. In Rückenstüze he does this through the material transformation of silk to iron and through the figurative suggestion of the corset ribbons newly cast like limbs. The title too is consciously open-ended and ambiguous with a foot in the present and prehistory simultaneously. The present work epitomises the freedom and invention that Beuys gave to the medium of sculpture and its expanded capacity for meaning.
London, United Kingdom