Joseph Beuys biography in Biographies from the artzine on artrepublic.com
Joseph Beuys is considered one of the most influential figures in modern and contemporary art. His charismatic presence and unconventional style gained him international fame and notoriety in the 1960s and his innovative influence is still felt today.
Beuys strongly believed that art had the power to shape a better society and once stated that 'It was simply impossible for human beings to bring their creative intention into the world any other way than through action.’ This strength of conviction led Beuys to push the boundaries of established artforms to include human action and large-scale sculptural environments exploring universal social concerns. The process of coming to terms with his involvement in WWII was also a constant subtext in much of his work.
Joseph Beuyes was born in1921 in northwestern Germany. He studied natural sciences and art and was considering going into medicine. In 1940 he joined the air force as a combat pilot and radio operator. After the war, Beuys gave up on medicine and enrolled in the Düsseldorf Academy of Art to study sculpture. He returned to the Academy in 1961 to take up a professorship.
During the early 1960s, Beuys was associated with the avant-garde Fluxus group, whose public ‘concerts’ blurred the boundaries between literature, music, visual art and everyday life. These ideas were a catalyst for Beuys’s own performances, and his evolving concept of the artist as agitator for social change.
In the 1970s he became increasingly active in politics, campaigning for educational reform, grassroots democracy and the Green Party. As his reputation grew, Beuys was invited to make ever-more ambitious projects, many of which resulted in large-scale installations up until his death in 1986.