Kiefer’s works from the Met Museum collection on view until April 8, 2018
The exhibition at the Met Breuer “Provocations: Anselm Kiefer” presents selected works from the Met collection covering artist’s 50-year career. Well known for pushing the boundaries of comfortable art and sleepy consciousness, Kiefer’s paintings, watercolors, and collages shake the norms by questioning the stale and tired concepts. The art lovers, sophisticated and novices, will appreciate the introspection and depth of thought that this expose projects. The exhibition is on view from December 13, 2017 until April 8, 2018.
Born in Donaueschingen, Germany in 1945 two months before the end of World War II, Anselm Kiefer through his art confronts Germany’s dark past and the horrors of Holocaust. A distinguished element of his work is an intermix of various forms of artistic expression. He incorporates references to ancient folk epics such as Gilgamesh, European expressionistic and futuristic literature, German mythology and Cabalistic symbolism while experimenting with new materials, forms and dimensions.
Starting his artistic career as a photographer in late 1960s, Kiefer staged the images by photographing himself wearing old Nazi uniform. The resulting pictures provoke a re-evaluation and acknowledgment of the horrific and not that distant past. The scenes from that period were later depicted in his watercolors which are included in the Met expose such as a watercolor “Untitled (Heroic Symbols)” from 1969.
There are more examples of the reuse of the old images in this exhibition. They are in the form of gouache, acrylic and other media layered over the black and white photographs as in the “Big Iron Fist” from 1980-81. The stylistic recycling of the pictures relates to the theme of transformation, which is explored by Kiefer in this and other works influenced by the futuristic Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov.
Poetry and literature are taking a prominent place in Kiefer’s works. His watercolor from 1980 “Your Golden Hair, Margarete” uses a reference to Romanian Jewish writer Paul Celan‘s poem “Todesfuge” (“Death Fugue”). The title for this work is a line from Celan’s verses. The burden of the past is a subject of another watercolor “Winter Landscape” from 1970. Its snow-covered earth spotted with the blood from the woman’s head hovering over the field makes an eery reference to the Nazi “Blood and Soil” slogan.
With Wagnerian references occupying a big space in Kiefer’s oeuvre, there are several watercolors under the same title “My Father Pledged Me a Sword” pointing to Die Walkure and other works incorporating the scene and subjects of cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. Wagnerian theme and the topic of final destruction was extensively presented in the last year exhibition at the White Cube Bermondsey gallery in London titled Walhalla. Some pieces in that exhibition looked like “a set for Wagner’s Götterdämmerung” in the words of The Guardian review by Jonathan Jones.
Kabbalah and mythology are also giving Kiefer considerable inspiration. A collage on photograph “Azimuth” from 2004 is one of such. The artist’s interest in mystical scriptures and history of civilizations had been nurtured by the trip to Israel which the author took in 1984.
While the exhibition samples the major turning point in the artist’s oeuvre, his latest works using new material, a return to erotic watercolors and books are not presented at the Met Breuer. Gagosian Gallery in New York City held an exhibition of those works in the summer of 2017. The leitmotif there was an interplay of femininity and rebirth.
Kiefer is often likened to Rodin in his depiction of emotions which invokes historical dilemmas and human relationships. As the world celebrated a centennial of Rodin death 2017, Rodin Museum in Paris and Barnes Foundation have Kiefer Rodin exhibition ongoing. It was on view at Rodin Museum in Paris until October 22, 2017 , then moved to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA from November 17, 2017 – March 12, 2018.
Time: December 13, 2017 – April 8, 2018
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