Anselm Kiefer’s grim extravagance

 Anselm Kiefer, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” installation view. Photo by Rob McKeever. Images � Anselm Kiefer / Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Anselm Kiefer, “San Loreto,” 2009-2010, oil, emulsion, acrylic and shellac on canvas, 185 x 220 1//2 x 3 7/8″
 Anselm Kiefer, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” installation view. Photo by Rob McKeever

Anselm Kiefer, “Winterwald,” 2010, oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, ash, torn bushes, synthetic teeth and snakeskin on canvas in glass and steel frames, 130 11/16 x 226 13/16 x 13 13/16″

In The Village Voice R.C. Baker reports that Anselm Kiefer’s new work at Gagosian may be beautiful, but feels conceptually overwrought. “Kiefer has long struggled to wrest a proud national culture out of the abyss into which it was plunged by his grandfather’s and father’s generations, but his aesthetic reach sometimes becomes entangled with an overly conceptual grasp. Much of the show is viscerally beautiful: Paintings of gloomy, tree-clotted forests and mountains crusted with clouds in Kiefer’s signature burnt blacks, smoky grays, sepulchral whites, and dried-blood browns, coalesce into desolate, brooding quiet. The vistas call to mind the wastelands, still strewn with long forgotten ordnance, that surround the eradicated Austrian village of Dollersheim, which Hitler had blasted off the map in an attempt to destroy any trace of a family past he feared might be tainted with Jewish blood. To this day, locals refer to the place as verfallen�’ruined.’ Hitler tried to hide his origins. Kiefer wears his like an outsize badge.”

In the NY Times Roberta Smith admires Kiefer’s ability to put on a monumental show, but resents being manipulated and sees a vast divide between the artists’ aesthetic choices and his conceptual intent. “The dour and dusty copse of art with which he has forested the vast Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea may elicit awe, skepticism or disdain � or perhaps a conflicted combination of all three. But its initial power is hard to deny….Portentously titled ‘Next Year in Jerusalem,’ the exhibition is effective middlebrow art as catharsis, spectacle with a message. As with many a successful Broadway drama, we leave feeling that our heartstrings have been exercised or at least manipulated.

“There�s a disconnect in most of these pieces between the ideas and the extravagant materiality. The themes are rarely in the forms; they�re more in the titles, their explanations or the heavy-handed associations, not to mention the extensive Anselm Kiefer glossary on the Web site, which accounts for the feeling of being manipulated. The strongest, freshest paintings � which are also glass-encased and depict wintery sun-shot expanses of barren trees � personify the emotional push-pull typical of Mr. Kiefer�s art.”

Anselm Kiefer: Next Year in Jerusalem,” Gagosian, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through December 18, 2010.

Related Post:
Anselm Keifer’s factory


  1. I'm looking at those glass booths and thinking his new angle could be the TSA holocaust. It's a perfect fit considering his natural tendency to express destruction and misery.

  2. I posted one one of my blogs the same day you posted it here … that his production haven't had any great impact on me for the last 15 years ….or more .
    But it still touchs me and now I have a quiet , calm apreciation about his works .
    I still love what he has done .

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