FRANKFURT, GERMANY.-The exhibition Rodin Beuys is the first time the artistic work of Auguste Rodin (18401917) and Joseph Beuys (192186) has been brought together. With their respective conceptions of sculpture and drawing, both artists greatly influenced the evolution of art in the twentieth cen-tury and established trends that remain of relevance today. Between 1947 and 1964 Beuys produced hundreds of works on paper in a style that echoes the technique and formal lan-guage of Rodins drawings and watercolors from 1895 to 1910. In the graphic works of both artists, the female body epitomizes elemental, transformative natural forces. While several authors have noticed similarities between the two artists watercolors, parallels in their three-dimensional work have yet to be explored. As it turns out, Beuys deeply admired the dynamic surface quality of Rodins work. He also appreciated the French artists elevation of the torso to an autonomous art form. More than 130 works on paper and 35 masterpieces of sculpture illuminate Rodins importance for Beuyss work. In addition, 15 works by Wilhelm Lehmbruck (18811919) shed light on Beuyss grappling with the works by a German sculptor who was himself in turn inspired by the French master.
The exhibition Rodin Beuys is sponsored by the Hessische Kulturstiftung. Additional support was provided by Fraport AG.
Despite the unconventional appearance of Beuyss post 1964 sculpture, throughout his life he remained deeply attached to the traditional medium of drawing. On the occasion of his par-ticipation in documenta 3 in 1964, three years after being appointed Professor of Monumental Sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, he discussed the significance of particularly his early drawings: Drawing for me is especially important, because in the older drawings, even going back to 1947, everything is in principle already prefigured.
The present exhibition takes this statement as its point of departure. Between 1947 and 1964 he produced a large number of works on paper. Although he never stopped drawing, his post 1964 works on paperthe so-called Partiturare quite different from his earlier work. Made on blackboards and notebook pads they are inseparable from his new focus on making ac-tions, installations, holding lectures, and formulation of his theory of Social Plastic.
The exhibition juxtaposes the sculptural and graphic works of both Rodin and Beuys to reveal the extent to which these two bodies of work are interrelated, both within their respective oeu-vres and to each others. Simultaneously it seeks to shed light on the relationship of Beuyss early drawings to his later three-dimensional works.
Beuyss first became aware of Rodin through his reading of Rainer Maria Rilkes 1903 mono-graph on the artist. By the time of his death in 1917, Rodin had achieved great recognition par-ticularly in German-speaking Europe. Against this backdrop, Beuyss interest in Rodins work takes on clearer contours. Firstly, it fits with his preoccupation with other heroes of northern European culture such as Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and Wilhelm Lehmbruck. As it happens, Munch and Lehmbruck, whom Beuys particularly admired, were in turn motivated by Rodin.
One of Rodins most important innovations at the end of the nineteenth century lay in the frag-mentation of the body and the treatment of the torso as an autonomous form. By means of the fragment Rodin aimed at bridging the gap between the art of antiquity and his own work. Al-though, Beuys too was interested in the aesthetic possibilities of the torso form, his fascination with Rodins work is evident most strongly in his drawings. Like Beuys, Rodin produced thou-sands of works on paper that he considered an autonomous group of works within his oeuvre. Both their graphic oeuvres are marked by elastic lines, flowing pigments, and constantly permut-ing female forms. Like Rodin, Beuys experimented tirelessly with various and unusual drawing techniques, ranging from the introduction of isolated collage elements to the spreading of trans-lucent color so extreme that their nudes become almost ethereal. As voluptuous as the female figures in Rodins late watercolors may be, they seem to be caught in an ephemeral state. For Rodin, however, human arousal was not merely erotic; it corresponded to the vibrancy of forms found in naturetransformative processes he sought to transmit through line. Beuys, too, was deeply concerned with metamorphic impulses. The fluid, contours of the female bodies that popu-late his work suggests them as inviting, if not particularly attractive receptacles in which life can take root and flourish.
A second central aspect shared by the two artists, one that extended the conception of sculp-ture in a revolutionary way, was the innovative idea of permeating art with movement and intro-ducing the element of time. Rodin remarked: First of all we have to realize that movement is the transition from one position to another. [. . .] Every painter or sculptor who imparts move-ment to his figures is the creator of such a metamorphosis. In Rodins work, movement is mani-fested in the ephemeral quality of his drawings. The dynamic movement of light across the sur-faces of his sculpture, causes them to appear almost to pulsate. Similarly, Beuys understood sculpture as a process of evolutionopen and moving, alive and flowing between the antithesis of chaos and order, organic and crystalline, warm and cold. Thinking was for Beuys the true, elemental level of sculpture.
In addition to the affinity of Beuyss oeuvre to that of Rodin, the Schirn exhibition will undertake the first detailed comparison of Beuyss concern with the work of Wilhelm Lehmbruck. His ex-perimentation with the possibilities of the torso directed Beuyss attention to Rodins pioneering works using this art form. Indeed, it was Lembrucks sculpture that originally had strengthened Beuyss will to become a sculptor. More than 80 works on paper and 15 sculptures by Beuys,
50 works on paper and twenty sculptures by Rodin, and 10 works on paper and 5 sculptures by Lehmbruck form the core of this exhibition. In addition, it will present documents on Rodins re-ception in Germany between 1900 and 1960.
The exhibition Rodin Beuys was organized by Pamela Kort, guest curator of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. An American art historian, she has been living in Berlin since 2004 and has several publications on Beuys since 1994. Pamela Kort has previously curated the exhi-bitions Grotesque! 130 Years of Witty Art and Paul Klee: 1933 for the Schirn.