new-york

Joseph Beuys

Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery

So much is the man, Joseph Beuys, the image and the instrument of the art that one dwells first on a portrait of him. Photographs show a face that seems to register the mind exactly; indeed, they seem so coincident that the man seems less, not more, real, like an actor or a persona that subsumes the person. Beuys looks equally like Beckett and Buster Keaton, lined and deadpan, keen to absurdity. So extreme is the picture that it seems parodistic, and one is not sure whether it constrains or frees him (my sense is that, unlike Duchamp, it constrains him). As it is, one envisions a man (again, a persona?) so eccentric as to be negatively charismatic. No one seems to know: is Beuys naive or mad or right? Apparently, he is an extraordinary performer (I have not seen him, but the 1974 performance in which he lived and played with a coyote in a New York gallery is well remembered). Much of his

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