While the “statements” on view in the exhibition Statements: Beuys, Flavin, Judd may seem less-than-political at first glance, all three artists — Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd — were deeply engaged in political matters. According to exhibition curator Yasmil Raymond, all three men, who were adult artists working in the turbulent 1960s, were both military veterans and pacifists and had bold views on politics of their day. Of course, theirs wasn’t politics in the traditional sense. As Beuys once said, “I have nothing to do with with politics — I know only art.” Yet he and environmentalist Likas Beckmann founded Germany’s Green Party. And Judd, who was bitterly opposed to war of all kinds, wrote the seminal essay “Art and Internationalism” in protest of imperialism; his withdrawal to Marfa, Texas, some say, was a response to the war in Vietnam.
With a contentious and historic election three weeks away, the Walker has taken some of the political quotations by artists in the show and reproduced them on simple red and blue buttons, to be given away free at each Target Free Thursday Night. The statements, selected by Raymond and Education’s Sarah Peters, are bold, positive and quirky — like Beuys’ quizzical “Democracy is Merry” — serving as either a welcome respite from the clichés of modern horserace politics or a transcendent view of a different possibility for democracy.