There is no history. Each human being made his own history, has his own thoughts and his own world but everyone is along with his own illusions with his own methods… I think each human being tries to put themselves in a bigger context. You always create an illusion that you stay longer on earth than you do… That’s what a religion is… This reassures you in a sense in the work because in this world there is no sense. So the scientific process… doesn’t lead to any key to the work… the more we know, more we don’t know. It’s always like this, only mythology tries to explain the world in a logical sense. ~Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer, Melancholia, Mixed media on canvas with glass polyhedron, 2004, In Private Collection, © Anselm Kiefer.
Anselm Kiefer is one of the most important international artists of our time. His epic works fascinate with their unusual choice of material which underpins their subject matter: thickly applied layers of paint, earth, lead, enamel, plants, clothing or hair -materials as symbolically charged as his imagery, reach beyond the two-dimensionality of pictorial space. The painted surfaces are cracked, flaking, and otherwise distressed. Most of the paintings contain scraps of German text -words and names written in Kiefer’s old-school handwriting (a feature I particularly like). The large majority of his pieces suggests a complex relationship between land, memory, history, cosmology, mythology and spirituality, and often incorporate ambiguous enigmatic spiritual and geological symbols. As with all Kiefer’s work, allusions are never literal but reflect an ongoing interest in systems -mystical and material- which have evolved over centuries.
Anselm Kiefer, Am Anfang (In the Beginning) (detail), Oil, emulsion, photographic paper and lead on canvas, 2008, Grothe Collection, © Anselm Kiefer, Courtesy Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur e.V.
Coinciding with dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel, the Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn is presenting key works by Anselm Kiefer from the Grothe Collection. The exhibit opens today and will be on view through 16 September, 2012. The first gallery to present this substantial body of works by the celebrated German artist, almost in its entirety, Am Anfang is staged across 2000 square metres of gallery space. The selection, complemented by recent acquisitions and sculptural pieces, reaffirms the uniqueness and brilliance of Kiefer’s oeuvre.
Anselm Kiefer, ‘Am Anfang’ (French), Composer Jörg Widmann, Opera Stage Still, 2009.
In 2009 Kiefer was commissioned to create an opera to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra Bastille in Paris. Together with composer Jörg Widmann they produced Am Anfang which premiered in July of that year. Kiefer’s epic piece was a remarkable encounter combining stage, painting, sculpture and music, set amidst the ruins of the Fertile Crescent linking the Nile Valley of ancient Egypt through Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf. He evoked the words of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and the avenging God of Abraham but his central theme was human history: ‘We should envisage the debris of history not as an end but as a beginning.’
Exhibitions of Kiefer’s painting, sculptures, drawings and installations have been staged extensively over the past four decades and his work is included in the world’s most prestigious public and private collections. In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist to be given a permanent commission to install work at the Louvre, Paris since Georges Braque some 50 years earlier. In 2009 he created the opera, ‘Am Anfang’, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris. Director Sophie Fiennes’ documentary on Anselm Kiefer, “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow” showcased at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2010. Since 2007, Kiefer has lived in Paris, where in 2010 he was called to the Collège de France as a professor.
Comprehensive solo exhibitions of his work have been organized by the Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1984), Art Institute of Chicago (1987), Sezon Museum of Art in Tokyo (1993), Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1998), Fondation Beyeler in Basel (2001), Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2005), the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2007), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2008), and Museum Frieder Burda (2011).