Sunflowers in winter

November 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is a new show by the German artist Anselm Kiefer at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. “Next Year in Jerusalem ” deals with Kiefer’s familiar theme, characterized by Roberta Smith in the New York Times as “Germanness and its discontents.” Born at the end of WWII, Kiefer was one of the first post-war artists to tackle the scar his country had left on history. The works in the New York show are vintage Kiefer, enormous constructions, many made of lead, representing destroyed airplane parts, U-boats, and ravaged landscapes. Mixed in are ashes, torn bushes, burlap, synthetic teeth, snakeskins, and multiple references to early German theologians, Norse goddesses, and various ancient religions. As in all his works, Kiefer appears to want to go back to a place before the colossal failures of modern times to find belief systems that might allow us to go forward in some way intact. His extensive use of lead in his sculptures and paintings suggests a hope that alchemy might help here, lead being the base material that was supposed to be transformed into gold. And many of his works contain either sunflower seeds or sunflower plants, which I imagine as representing another kind of transformative hope that we can begin anew to follow the light. I was happy to find these wintering sunflowers in a local garden, soon after reading the exhibition review in the Times.

Here is a quote from Kiefer, taken from the Gagosian press release.

There is a special border, the border between art and life that often shifts deceptively. Yet, without this border, there is no art. In the process of being produced, art borrows material from life, and the traces of life still shine through the completed work of art. But, at the same time, the distance from life is the essence, the substance of art. And, yet, life has still left its traces. The more scarred the work of art is by the battles waged on the borders between art and life, the more interesting it becomes.
–Anselm Kiefer


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