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Lightning with Stag in Its Glare (Blitzschlag mit Lichtschein auf Hirsch)

Joseph Beuys1958/1985

Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao
Bilbao, Spain

The only monumental installation Beuys produced in bronze and other metals, Lightning with Stag in Its Glare was based on the artist's The Stag Monument (1982) and it articulates the German artist's abiding fascination with the forces of nature, the transmittance of energy, and states of transformation. The arrangement of this mysterious grouping suggests a natural site like a forest clearing, in which a stag (represented by an ironing board resting on wooden "legs"), the excremental forms of "primordial animals" (made by plunging tools into piles of clay and casting the forms in bronze), and a goat (the hapless three-wheeled cart) are illuminated by a powerful lightning bolt (the weighty triangular form that hangs precariously from a beam). The artist is the human witness to this mythic, symbolic narrative dominated, as always in Beuys's work, by animals, appearing obliquely in the form of the cast block of earth atop an old sculptor's modeling base. Intending to stimulate, rather than represent, ideas through his work, Beuys’s “social sculpture” hoped to rejuvenate—or illuminate—society with the fuel of creative thought.

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