Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer
Baum mit Palette, 1978
Wege: märkischer Sand, 1980
Dein und mein Alter und das Alter der Welt, 1997
Lilith, 1997
Baum mit Palette, 1978
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Anselm Kiefer
Baum mit Palette, 1978

Tree with Palette
Oil and lead on canvas, 280.5 x 190 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Wege: märkischer Sand, 1980
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Anselm Kiefer
Wege: märkischer Sand, 1980

Paths: Brandenburg Sand
Acrylic and sand on photograph on burlap, 255 x 360 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Dein und mein Alter und das Alter der Welt, 1997
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Anselm Kiefer
Dein und mein Alter und das Alter der Welt, 1997

Your Age and My Age and the Age of the World
Oil, emulsion, shellac, ashes and terracotta fragments on canvas, five parts, 470 x 940 cm
Photo: © Courtesy Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London

Anselm Kiefer is an architect of different universes and times. His multi-layered œuvre employing such a wealth of materials brings together microcosm and macrocosm, literature, history and myth. His paintings tower before the viewer like vast stage sets. In Dein und mein Alter und das Alter der Welt (Your age and my age and the age of the world) Kiefer marries the massive painting with a delicate, fragile line of verse written in black above the pyramid: ‘dein und mein Alter und das Alter der Welt’. The words are those of the Austrian lyric poet Ingeborg Bachmann and are cited from her love poem Das Spiel ist aus: ‘Your age and my age and the age of the world [cannot be measured in years].’

Lilith, 1997
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Anselm Kiefer
Lilith, 1997

Emulsion, shellac, acrylic, lead, hair and ashes on canvas, two parts, 330 x 560 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

In Lilith, a fighter jet shaped in lead with skeins of black hair tailing away from its wings hurtles over a deserted, devastated city, disintegrating with ghostly logic before our eyes. In front of Kiefer’s monumental canvas, the viewer becomes an actor without a script. Our only stage directions are painting and the props and lettering applied to the canvas. The open nature of these pictorial signs makes a definitive interpretation impossible. Anselm Kiefer is not creating ‘meaning’ but a stage for our own appearance. ‘I see my pictures as ruins, or as building blocks that can be assembled. They are material that can used to build something, but they are not complete in themselves. They are closer to nothingness than to completion.’

Anselm Kiefer

b. 1945, Donaueschingen (Germany)

The German painter and sculptor first studied art in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, then in Düsseldorf under Joseph Beuys. Until the 1990s, his work was preoccupied above all with German history, both in terms of figures and events from legend and mythology, and of the recent past. Kiefer addresses his themes in vast pictorial formats, employing a wide variety of materials and techniques inspired by Art Informel. Besides the expressive use of paint applied in thick layers, he also works on the surface with an axe and a blowtorch, collaging in objects and materials, photographs and inscriptions which infuse the pictures with formal associations and connotations. Through this intense cumulative process he also lends thematic emphasis to the activity of painting, tying it closely to the content of the picture. In the late 1980s, Kiefer’s work became more sculptural, using lead as his principal material to reflect on questions of human civilization, its catastrophes and longing for atonement.

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