Portrait of Anselm Kiefer
© Anselm Kiefer, 2006
Photo: Renate Graf
LONDON, ENGLAND • Royal Academy of Art • 27 September - 14 December 2014
|German artist Anselm Kiefer (born 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany) tries to shed light on the story behind the story. Explaining that he ‘pokes a hole, and then goes through it’, he highlights the processual nature of history and memory, especially when approached with subjective interpretations, a highly personal handling of individual mythologies and a distinctive creative style.
The Royal Academy of Arts presents the first major retrospective of Kiefer’s work to be held in the UK. Considered to be one of the most important artists of his generation, the exhibition spans over forty years from Kiefer’s early career to the present time, bringing together artwork from international private and public collections. The exhibition is arranged chronologically, presenting the epic scale of his artwork and the breadth of media he has used throughout his career, including painting, sculpture, photography and installation. Kiefer (born 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany) has also created a number of works conceived specifically for the Royal Academy’s Main Galleries|
From cultural myths, to the Old and New testaments, Kabbalah, alchemy, philosophy and the poetry of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, Kiefer’s work wrestles with the darkness of German history and considers the complex relationship between art and spirituality. His technical use of materials such as clay, ash, earth, lead, fabric and dried flowers amongst others, adds further symbolism and depth to his work.
Highlights of the exhibition include photographs and paintings from the controversial Occupations and Heroic Symbols (Heroische Sinnbilder) series of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These images record Kiefer’s re-enactment of the Nazi salute in locations across Europe, made in the belief that one must confront rather than supress the experiences of history. A series of paintings from Kiefer’s Attic series is also on view, including Father, Son and the Holy Ghost (Vater, Sohn, Heiliger Geist), 1973 and Notung, 1973 depicting powerful renderings of wooden interior spaces based on the studio space that Kiefer was occupying in Walldürn-Hornbach in south-west Germany, which he has referred to as “a place to teach myself history.” The exhibition also feature his monumental architectural paintings, such as To the Unknown Painter (Dem unbekannten Maler), 1983 that reflect on the neo-classicist buildings of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, and the role of the artist in considering collective memory.
Kiefer has lived and worked in France since 1993.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from Richard Davey, Simon Schama, Kathleen Soriano and Christian Weikop.
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