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Anselm Kiefer

Untitled, Germany, 2005

Photography and branches 63.5x85cm

Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, Paris

Anselm Kiefer studied law, literature and private detection before he became apprenticed to the major German artist Joseph Beuys. From the 1970s on Kiefer’s work has investigated the complex identify of Germany in the wake of the Second World War, by means of dealing with historic, mythical and literary subjects from the German culture. His works often take monumental scale, and his use of recycled materials hints at processes of decay and destruction. Kiefer’s work since 2005 draws the viewer’s gaze to deserted and barren views stretching to an undefined horizon. His field is strewn with signposts leading us to spaces lost in time, to history in its darkest moments, and force us to confront processes of caused forgetfulness. Do the lines fallen into order indicate ranks of human beings standing in submission, frozen and waiting for an apocalyptic day of judgement already in the past, and perhaps even expected to recur?

Kiefer invites the viewer into the spaces of his work, where painting and historical or mythical motifs become one, and the world and humanity exist in a perpetual state of division and mutual contamination. Sand, branches, ethereal bodies, hair and texts – poetic, scientific or mystical – all serve him as mediums in their own right. Kifer finds new sources with which to confront the un-presentable, in sequences of mirrors whose object is to involve the viewer in the rebuilding of memory and knowledge.

For Kiefer, who was born in 1945 a few months before Germany surrendered, the ruins served as an important source of inspiration. This was the environment he absorbed and out of it he creates. Through the process of physical, psychological and ethical rehabilitation, the artist asks himself the same question many Germans asked themselves at that hour: does art have any legitimacy, or was Theodor Adorno right when he defined writing poetry in German after Auschwitz as a barbaric act?