Joseph Beuys Untitled (Sun State) 1974

  • Not on view

This drawing unites the cosmic and terrestrial, as it maps an ideal state in which the social order is conceived as a living organism, intimately linked to a balanced natural order. Each motif is a metaphor: the sun creates energy, which circulates by means of a looping line; through alchemy it takes form in a threefold system of culture—art, science, and religion—and travels toward the ideal state; this life principle is balanced by the death principle, and the earth by the primary actor, Man, an androgynous figure accompanied by an emblem of his animalistic and spiritual nature—the stag.

Untitled (Sun State) is one of Beuys's Blackboard drawings, which were created during his lectures at educational institutions and museums. This drawing evolved during his participation in the public dialogue, "Art into Society, Society into Art" at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1974. Here Beuys demonstrates, with a thin looping line and verbal descriptions, the connections among myth, alchemy, astrology, anthropology, and the social and political sciences. The result is a work described by the artist as a kind of astrological chart embodying his ideas of the ideal state, in which democratic principles inform cultural life (freedom), law (equality), and economics (fraternity). It is a constellation delineating a structure for a harmonious social body, or, alternatively, a social sculpture—an evolutionary process whose goal is to "sculpt new models for the entirety of life."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999.
Chalk and felt-tip pen on blackboard with wood frame
47 1/2 x 71 1/8" (120.7 x 180.7 cm)
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (by exchange) and acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange)
Object number
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
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