Anselm Kiefer

Born 1945 Donaueschingen, Germany
Lives in Paris, France

Am Anfang

(In the Beginning)

2004

Oil paint, emulsion, acrylic paint, and plaster on canvas

The reason for this project comes from my childhood, that is clear to me. I did not have any toys. So, I played in the bricks of ruined buildings around me and with which I built houses.

                        —Anselm Kiefer

Kiefer’s work is built largely on his experience as a German in post-World War II Europe. The year of his birth, 1945 is also the year the war ended and one some Germans call Year Zero. Defeat of their nation was so destructive and many of the symbols of national pride that had been born under the Nazi flag were now tainted by association with the Third Reich. The population then moved steadfastly forward to rebuild their society, reshaping themselves into a progressive, peaceful, and modern German democracy. Kiefer broke the taboo of not talking about the war or Nazism when he chose them as subject matter for his work. His pieces were immediately controversial and elicited raw emotions by directly opening wounds that many in his country hoped to leave in the past.

Born at the war’s end some of Kiefer’s earliest memories are of the destruction in and around his home. His landscapes show an extraordinary tension between slivers of sky squeezed to a high horizon above a tremendous bottom weight of rutted fields, often strewn with fragmented objects as if from an explosion. He is highly motivated by topics from ancient Jewish, Egyptian and Roman history as well as alchemy and mysticism. Two paintings in the museum titled Am Anfang (in the beginning),take their names from the first words in the Torah. The term, laden with religious connotations, invokes the idea of something colossal that has begun; it is an idea that is incomplete still wont of fulfillment, the start of a story yet without middle or end.

Often addressing the past and historical topics, Kiefer’s works deal with the effects of time, the layering of events, and things covered and re-exposed. His choice of materials includes lead, earth, oil paint, straw, seeds, emulsion, and a broad array of found objects. He exposes his work to the elements leaves them in the sun and rain, buries and burns them to allow nature to create its own patina on the work.

Am Anfang

(In the Beginning)

2002

Oil paint, emulsion, acrylic paint, varnish, wire, plaster, lead and straw on canvas

The Secret Life of Plants

2001

10 pages of lead, former shingles from Cologne Cathedral, painted with oil paint

The book, the idea of a book or the image of a book, is a symbol of learning, of transmitting knowledge. I make my own books to find my way through the old stories.

Anselm Kiefer

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The title of this work is borrowed from a book of the same name by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird in which they make the argument that plants may be sentient. They further discuss the interaction of plants in relation to humanity and their use as ecological sentinels while delving into issues such as aura, psychophysics, magneto tropism, bioelectrics, and dowsing. The authors put forth the idea that plants are deeply connected to the cosmos in a cognitive way.

Kiefer’s book uses lead sheets to create a book of monumental proportions, open, fully displaying its contents and its purpose as a container of knowledge. It is decorated with stars in patterns that directly reference space agency methods of charting and numbering stars. Kiefer’s interest in stars is tied to his interest in mysticism, religion and the origins of our universe. As he puts it:  I’m interested in reconstructing symbols. It’s about connecting with an older knowledge and trying to discover continuities in why we search for heaven.

Cornelia

2003

Steel, plaster, wedding dress, razor wire, paint.

 

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