Gianluca Costantini
A Drawn Biography on Joseph Beuys

+ – 1962

+ – is a small work by the German artist Joseph Beuys in oil paint on two pieces of stained, cream-coloured card. The two sheets of portrait-orientated card are placed side by side: the card on the left contains the positive ‘plus’ symbol while the card on the right contains the negative ‘minus’ symbol. These titular symbols were painted in light grey-blue oil paint against roughly painted background images in a darker black-grey colour. The image on the left appears to be a silhouette of a leaping female figure, bent over with her legs outstretched. The cross symbol is positioned beneath the figure, on top of a swirling mass of dark paint. The image on the right is more detailed, but also more ambiguous. It could represent a horse drawing a carriage along at high speed, with part of the drawing recalling a horse in profile. However, the exact content is impossible to ascertain as the bottom left section of the card is completely covered by an opaque, undifferentiated mass of paint that creeps out to form linear tendrils towards the top of the image. The minus shape is placed against the middle of this dark form, and its presence in this image suggests it is meant to stand in opposition to the accompanying positive, female half as a depiction of masculinity, however vague. The approximately symmetrical positioning of the two symbols suggests that the artist intended to imply a state of equilibrium within the drawing. Continue in Tate Gallery

Joseph Beuys