A True Story About Joseph Beuys No. 3 (This Is a Fascist German Military Pilot Joseph Beuys)

Kęstutis Grigaliūnas1998

Modern Art Center / Modernaus Meno Centras

Modern Art Center / Modernaus Meno Centras

One of the most famous German artists, Joseph Beuys – conceptualist, creator of shamanic performances and objects, a great mystifier – is an icon of the contemporary art world of the 1970s and 1980s.

Beuys was particularly important for Lithuanian art after the restoration of Independence because he opened completely new art horizons. His became a frequent and regular name brought up in debates and discussions among artists, like a familiar neighbor.

The cycle of works entitled A True Story About Joseph Beuys, created in 1998 in the style of a comic book, focuses on exactly that point: Beuys becoming an everyday, but also mythological, personage.

Grigaliūnas allows himself to treat "Beuys" completely naturally, incorporating into the story the playfulness and absurdist elements characteristic of fluxus. A most serious artistic authority is depicted comically... No matter how cartoon-like his approach, however, a respect for the figure is maintained.

The series of paintings is the telling – in comic book form – of a well known story publicized by Beuys himself, about how he flew in a military plane and was shot down. He was found, freezing and injured, by Crimean Tartars, who smeared him with lard, wrapped him in felt and, having saved his life, irrevocably changed him. Joseph gained subtle powers. Later creative work by the German artist was based on this story about perching on the edge of death. Grigaliūnas retold this cult story in his own way.

But that is not all. Many of his works in the series feature captions. The source of this text is explained by the artist thusly: "For many years I have been friends with Herkus Kunčius, the most prominent postmodernist among Lithuanian writers. I painted the 24-panel series A True Story About Joseph Beuys based on his radio play, including captions and quotations."

The artist, then, interpreted a story that had already been interpreted. It seems that the artistic community, "influenced by magical powers", contributed to Beuys' vision to penetrate deeper into our consciousness and become folklore. Or perhaps it was the contrary: Kęstutis' desire to engage in a dialogue with an artistic leader without fear or trepidation defines him as an independent interpreter and not a follower?

A graphic artist by training, Kęstutis Grigaliūnas sought to adapt his mastery of creative imagery to other fields, and so it would be incorrect to call him only a graphic artist. Influences of pop art, the fluxus movement and conceptual art feature prominently in the artist's work. He astounded many by his use of an almost African color palette in his early works, and later brought chills by delving into the topic of death. For his courage in speaking out about historical sorrows – genocide and resistance under the Soviet regime – he was awarded the National Prize for Culture and the Arts in 2012.

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  • Title: A True Story About Joseph Beuys No. 3 (This Is a Fascist German Military Pilot Joseph Beuys)
  • Creator: Kęstutis Grigaliūnas
  • Date: 1998
  • Location: Lithuania
  • Physical Dimensions: 99 x 106 cm
  • Medium: acrylic on cardboard