Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph
Anselm Kiefer: A Monograph by Dominique Baqué. (Thames & Hudson, 250 illustrations, 300 pp. $70)
Neo-Expressionist Anselm Kiefer was born in 1945 in Germany, and though he had no direct experience of the Holocaust and is not Jewish, it is a central focus of his art. His fundamental question—explored in paintings, installations, books, sculptures, performances and photographs, all represented here—is how does one look unflinchingly at Germany’s Nazi past? Instead of repressing that history, Kiefer and his generation of postmodern artists reexamined it to reawaken the moral and political conscience of the German people.
A chapter called “Paintings After Auschwitz” includes photographs of his performance series “Occupations 1969.” In the photographs, he stands with his arm raised in a “limp” Nazi salute. This parody, which he repeated in Switzerland, Italy and France, was controversial, drawing protests, even anger.
Kiefer’s paintings and sculptures are monumental and use lead and glass shards. Many are not pretty, with thick lines and dark colors. They are also difficult to understand.
Kiefer is also fascinated with Jewish mysticism, and his works on Kabbala are shaped in arched columns and constructed variously from pottery, linen garments, emulsion, shellac or oil paint on canvas. The shimmering pieces include Shevirath Ha-Kelim, Sephiroth, The Order of the Angels, Tzimtzum and Emanation. The sculpture Shevirath Ha-Kellim is comprised of around 40 lead books on metal shelves with brown glass.
If you are not yet acquainted with Anselm Kiefer, Baqué’s monograph is a good place to start.