artist / participant
In 1965, a group of artists and theater-makers, collectively known as The Living Theater, headed by the Gesamtkünstler Julian Beck and his wife, Judith Malina, arrived in Berlin as a start to their self-imposed exile, after a series of futile court cases with the United States Internal Revenue Services (I.R.S.). Berlin, through the figure of actress Helene Weigel, opened its arms wide to embrace these great and radical artists. This year, 2014, Berlin, through the figure of the Berlin-based gallery Supportico Lopez in collaboration with the Fondazione Morra, will open its arms a second time for the homecoming of Beck’s art, with an exhibition of his paintings and drawings created between 1944 and 1958.
Julian Beck, born 1925 in New York City, is mostly recognized for his foundational role in The Living Theater—which name itself begins to approach the depth, versatility, and sense of human engagement that makes their work enduring still. It is a theater that lives, that allows all aspects of the human experience—political, religious, sexual, etc.—to form and to inform the work; it is a theater of change, in constant flux, a mode of theater that attempts to understand, and en route to understanding, a theater that comments on our world. However, Julian Beck began as a painter, and as a painter, he became a theater-maker. Beck’s oeuvre allows us to look at the living artist: for that which must be said is given the freedom to find its unique form, and in such an overflow of media, even a painter who no longer paints still inhabits and senses the world as a painter.
In 1943, Beck met his future wife and collaborator, Judith Malina. Together, they attended Erwin Piscator’s theater workshops, performing their earliest experiments in their New York City living room. By 1947, they began to envision a new kind of theater, which would soon be inaugurated “The Living Theater.” It would take however, nearly another ten years before they would receive recognition for their work, and which would be, concomitantly, around the moment when Beck would stop to make paintings. Whether Beck ever stopped to see the world around him through a painter’s sense of movement and color, is not our question. Beck perhaps stopped to make paintings in the conventional sense, because the Theater, in its fluidity and multiplicity of formal possibility, began to take precedence.
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JULIAN BECK: NOW IN PARADISE