(Fragment.) Anselm Kiefer. Die Argonauten, 2017. Photo: Arterritory.com

Kiefer’s self-inventory 0

Arterritory.com
19/02/2018 

When speaking about Anselm Kiefer, everything is in the extreme: gigantic, large-scale, huge, impressive, influential, ambitious, saturated, mind-boggling – and mind you, none of these descriptors are exaggerated. Indeed, the same can be said for his latest solo show, Für Andrea Emo, which opened on February 11 at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin in Paris. 


Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo. Exhibition view. Photo: Arterritory.com 

Kiefer’s art is dense in both its narrative and expression. It exhibits formal ambition as well as the presence of such phenomena as alchemy, mythology and mysticism, the Kabbalah and Egyptian gods, and philosophy and poetry. Kiefer’s artworks are ‘crowded’ – from both the viewpoint of its conceptual content, which overflows with a wide range of references, and in terms of its physical corporeality, which consists of thick brushstrokes, dried plant material, ashes, asphalt, lead, metal, straw, pottery shards and other various objects. He is not afraid of the presence of either beauty or total destruction. With the help of gigantic sunflowers and wilting roses, Kiefer resolves complex philosophically conceptual world phenomena: power, politics, history, the consciousness of guilt, and the cosmos.


Anselm Kiefer. Am Grunde der Moldau, da wandern die Steine, 2008 – 2017. Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal and stone on canvas on wood, 430 kg. 190 x 380 x 47 cm. Photo: Arterritory.com

The viewer who has entered Kiefer’s world cannot exit it for a long time, for it subconsciously loops through the heaven and hell of one’s own life experiences; but those who happen to have in their possession a work by Kiefer, live with it in the most literal of senses. Case in point: a collector once described to Arterritory.com a work in their collection from Kiefer’s Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom series – a painting of a grey statue of Mao Zedong, the first leader of the People’s Republic of China, with dried roses glued onto the painting’s surface so as to surround Mao; apparently, the dried flower heads fall off every few months and must be replaced. One by one, new roses must be attached. To surmise, life in the presence of Kiefer is a process that demands constant self-renewal and self-inventory.


Anselm Kiefer. Brünhildes Fels, 2010 – 2016. Glass, metal, lead, polystyrene, stones, asphalt, acrylic, cardboard and gold leaf. 337 x 200 x 200 cm. Photo: Arterritory.com


Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo. Exhibition view. 
Photo: Arterritory.com 


Anselm Kiefer. Engel der Geschichte, 
2005-2017. Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal, charcoal on canvas on wood, 1200 kgs. 267 x 650 x 70 cm (105,12 x 255,91 x 27,56 in). Photo: Arterritory.com

Kiefer’s solo show at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin in Paris, titled Für Andrea Emo, is also a kind of self-inventory. It is noteworthy that this is Kiefer’s second exhibition at the gallery in its five-year history; his first show there marked the opening of the gallery itself. Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin is not located in the city’s centre but at avenue du Général Leclerc 69, a former industrial park, and has almost 5000 square metres of space. 2000 m2 of the area consists of exhibition halls. In the main exhibition hall, the ceiling height ranges from seven to twelve metres. Paradoxically, even Kiefer’s gargantuan scales (280x380x43 cm) look rather civil here.


Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo, 2013 – 2017. Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead and metal on canvas on wood. 280 x 380 x 56cm. Photo: Arterritory.com


Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo, 2013 – 2017 (Fragment). Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead and metal on canvas on wood. 280 x 380 x 56cm. Photo: Arterritory.com

Of the 20 large-scale paintings and three sculptures on view, their starting periods may vary (1985, 1991, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2015…), yet they all have the same finishing date – 2017. That is the year in which Kiefer transformed them. He submitted his own creations to destruction and a new process of regeneration. Kiefer dedicated this set of works to the renown Italian philosopher Andrea Emo, an apologist for the new metaphysics and nihilism. Direct contact with Emo’s work was the key that inspired Kiefer’s creative searchings at a moment when he had come upon a creative crossroads. ‘There is nothing new except recollection...the new arises out of us, ourselves the future if we can relinquish it,’ wrote Andrea Emo.


Anselm Kiefer. Gehäutete Landschaft, 2014 – 2017. Oil, Emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead and metal on canvas on wood. 280 x 380 x 47cm. Photo: Arterritory.com


Anselm Kiefer. Geist über den Wassern, 2015 – 2017. 
Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal and gold leaf on canvas on wood. 280 x 380 x 43. Photo: Arterritory.com


Anselm Kiefer. Geist über den Wassern, 2015 – 2017 (Fragment). 
Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal and gold leaf on canvas on wood. 280 x 380 x 43. Photo: Arterritory.com

With the zeal of an alchemist, Kiefer poured molten lead on his previously made works, leaving some places – the onetime base of the work – uncovered so as to reveal the occasionally sentimental and even picturesque landscapes underneath...or at least a semblance thereof. In other places, the lead has literally melted through the layers of paint, transforming it into cracked ‘urban asphalt’. In this act of self-inventory, Kiefer’s paintings have acquired a three-dimensional mixture of innumerable patinas, fragility, and brutality. They contain something of fossils – concentrated capsules of the past, broken up by the power of the earth and constantly and spewed out to the surface from the depths of the Himalayas by way of geological heavings. When walking along a moonscape of a mountain trail, if you suddenly come upon one of these fossils, you feel as if you have touched eternity while still standing firmly on this earth. Once again, we are reminded of the infinite and unknowable algorithm of life and death, of deconstruction and regeneration.


Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo. Exhibition view. Photo: Arterritory.com 

An excerpt from Kiefer’s diary has been published in the catalogue for the show: ‘on several old pictures you no longer wanted to even look at. unlike before, laid the paintings on the floor without anger, without despair, and poured the burning hot lead on them. no cause for despair any longer, for you know: at some point something will come of it; indeed, you count on the disappointment from the outset. would the result be any different, would the lead flow any differently if the destructive act were performed in rage and not deliberately?’


Anselm Kiefer. Geist über den Wassern, 2015 – 2017 (Fragment). Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal and gold leaf on canvas on wood. 280 x 380 x 43. Photo: Arterritory.com


Anselm Kiefer. Original Sin, 1986 – 2017. 
Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal and clay on canvas on wood. 280 x 190 x 40 cm. Photo: Arterritory.com


Anselm Kiefer. Snake in Paradise, 1991 – 2017. 
Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, lead, metal, plaster and gold leaf on canvas and wood. 190 x 280 x 42 cm. Photo: Arterritory.com

This is the first extensive personal showing of Anselm Kiefer’s work since his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2015/2016. As Thaddaeus Ropac informed Arterritory.com, a record-large crowd attended the opening of this latest exhibition – 1500 people; and according to unofficial sources, the tumultuous excitement around the show has created such a large demand (from both collectors and art institutions) that virtually all of the works have already been spoken for. 


Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo. Exhibition view. Photo: Arterritory.com 

Anselm Kiefer. Für Andrea Emo. Through May 31
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