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Score (1967) is a large collage work by the German artist Joseph Beuys consisting of three irregular shapes joined together in an apparently haphazard fashion, the largest of which is a piece of cardboard with rough, torn edges to which are attached two smaller pieces of paper. Paint splatter covers the entire surface of the cardboard which also has some masking tape along the top edge. Using reddish-brown oil paint the artist painted an abstract composition of diagonal rectangular shapes on the cardboard, around which can be discerned some individual German words handwritten in pencil, including ‘Fett’ (fat), ‘Eisen’ (iron) and ‘Filz’ (felt), substances that are central to Beuys’s material practice. Both the pieces of paper have torn upper and right edges, and are glued to the cardboard along one of their straight edges. They are completely covered inthe same red-brown paint used on the cardboard, but also contain hand-made holes gouged from the approximate middle of their shapes that look almost like keyholes. It seems as if Beuys re-used or recycled an old bit of cardboard that was in his studio, perhaps previously used to test paint colours while the paper appears equally worn and discarded. Assembled together as a collage these materials are transformed into an abstract composition, unified by the addition of the thick brown oil paint.
While the title of this work may suggest a relation to a musical composition, the artist in fact used the term Partitur (the German word for musical score) to name a great number of drawings not comprehensible as ‘scores’ in a musical, or even performative sense. The term instead encompasses a wide range of different outputs on paper that may or may not relate individually to one of the artist’s performance works or ‘actions’ which dominated Beuys’s artistic practice in the mid-1960s as a result of his involvement with the Fluxus group in Düsseldorf.
The idea of recycling previously used materials chimes with the artist’s wider interest in renewal and rebirth in his art. The brown paint substance that dominates this work is Beuys’s Braunkreuz, a type of common, household oil paint first used by the artist in 1958, and which he named ‘Brown cross’ after the form on which he first experimented with the paint (Seymour 1983, p.21). Its reddish-brown hue is reminiscent of rust, dried blood, and dirt, while the name evokes symbols associated with such far-ranging ideologies as Christianity, Nazism, and occultism. It features in many of Beuys’s drawings of the 1960s, from small interventions such as the triangle in Play 17 (1963) to grand painterly sweeps, for example the main element in the drawing Felt Action (1963). As the writer and curator Anne Seymour explains of Braunkreuz:
Sometimes a colour may be chosen deliberately so as not to have any other connotations, especially with art … It has been used in drawings … mostly sculptural in large solid areas, more as substance than colour … The inference that this is very much a sculptor’s approach to working on paper is emphasised by the grounds Beuys uses for drawings and the way he incorporates collage or mounts several sheets together into a single image.
(Seymour 1983, p.21.)
Drawing was considered by Beuys as a rapidly-paced and multifarious medium; a way to meditate on and experiment with various source materials and ideas that could potentially evolve in different media. The curator Ann Temkin has written:
The concept of drawing as a score had a solid precedent in Beuys’s own understanding of drawing. The score provides a suitable metaphor for Beuys’s drawing enterprise as a whole. It echoes his consistent reference to the drawings as a source of ideas from which to work and as a form of blueprint for his artistic projects. The score exemplifies Beuys’s preference for process over product, and the concept of art as an event that takes place in time rather than one that exists in stasis.
(Temkin and Rose 1993, p.50.)
This work, like many of Beuys’s scores, and in contrast to the scores used in Fluxus participatory events, cannot be easily decoded or understood by anyone other than the artist. It is a private memorandum of an experimental thought process, recorded in collage form. The writer and curator Jeannot Simmen has considered the diverse range of surfaces Beuys used for drawing, which included:
envelopes, book covers, pages from newspapers or notebooks or ledgers, wallpaper, corrugated cardboard, silver foil, wax-paper, normal paper. His formats might seem accidental: the paper or board might be torn, punched or folded, cut into separate pieces or glued together. The chance involved in his selection of grounds and working materials is not incidental to Beuys, though, because it is an integral part of his creative process; for him medium and ground form an indivisible unity.
(Simmen 1979, p.86.)
Anne Seymour, ‘The Drawings of Joseph Beuys’, in Joseph Beuys Drawings, exhibition catalogue, City Art Galleries, Leeds 1983, pp.7–26.
Jeannot Simmen, ‘Shadows of Reality’, in Heiner Bastian and Jeannot Simmen (eds.), Joseph Beuys – Zeichnungen, Tekeningen, Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Nationalgalerie, Berlin 1979, pp.85–90.
Ann Temkin and Bernice Rose (eds.), Thinking is Form: The Drawings of Joseph Beuys, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1993.
- Acc. No. AR00678
- Medium Oil paint and graphite on cardboard and paper adhered to plywood
- Size 69.20 x 69.40 cm
- Credit ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
Joseph Beuys (German, 1921 - 1986)
German artist Beuys believed that art was integral to everyday life. His own art was shaped by an experience early in his life. As a Luftwaffe pilot during the war, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea and was saved by nomadic Tartars. Barely alive, he was wrapped in felt and fat which preserved his body heat, and taken to safety on sledges pulled by dogs. This incident, and these particular elements, informed much of his art, which has a redemptive, mystical and ritualistic character. Central to his work were his 'Actions', which involved teaching, audience discussion and performance. The recurrent themes were social and political. Associated with the ecological movement - he was a founder member of the Green Party - he also had a strong influence on German politics.