Joseph Beuys

+ - (1962)

About this artwork

Beuys's distinctive cross symbol appears in this work. Unusually however, it is painted in grey oil paint instead of brown and is balanced by a negative symbol on the accompanying part of the work. These symbols connect this painting with electricity and energy, recalling the positive and negative terminals of a battery and energy created through chemical reaction. The presence of both symbols here suggests a state of balance. The image to the left appears to be a leaping female figure and although the right side is more difficult to decipher it may be intended to be masculine in tone, to balance the femininity.

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  • title: + -
  • accession number: AR00699
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: 1962
  • measurements: Each: 31.00 x 22.80 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © DACS 2016.
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys

German artist Beuys believed that art was integral to everyday life. His own art was shaped by an experience early in his life. As a Luftwaffe pilot during the war, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea and was saved by nomadic Tartars. Barely alive, he was wrapped in felt and fat which preserved his body heat, and taken to safety on sledges pulled by dogs. This incident, and these particular elements, informed much of his art, which has a redemptive, mystical and ritualistic character. Central to his work were his 'Actions', which involved teaching, audience discussion and performance. The recurrent themes were social and political. Associated with the ecological movement - he was a founder member of the Green Party - he also had a strong influence on German politics.