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.
Gagosian is pleased to present Next Year in Jerusalem, Anselm Kiefer’s first exhibition in New York since 2002.
The exhibition centers around the installation Occupations, which transforms the series of photographs from 1969 in which Kiefer appears making the Hitlergruß in front of European sites of historical significance. Inside a steel enclosure, seventy-six photographs, newly printed in large scale, are mounted on lead and hung slightly apart, one in front of the other, on thick metal hooks. While the mass of images can be sensed, the arrangement is only partially visible through open doors in the sides of the container. This imposing structure contains Kiefer’s provocative act, literally and imaginatively, to remind us of what has happened and what can still happen in the world. Occupations is a visceral confrontation between history and the present that is lodged in the stuff of memory.
Kiefer has transformed the space that surrounds Occupations into a labyrinth of glass and steel vitrines, some more than twenty feet high. Each vitrine contains a tableau of organic and inorganic material—cotton dresses, palms, bushes, an airplane fuselage, and burned books. They appear like ancient reliquaries with titles inscribed directly on the glass. In these works, Kiefer inverts the historical and ritualistic connotations of his chosen materials, particularly lead. In Valentinus, named for the second-century Gnostic theologian, lead buckets and chains are juxtaposed with synthetic diamonds and wire; in Die Schechina, a disembodied white dress is molded to an invisible female figure and pierced by glass shards and numbered glass disks, in reference to one of the ten Kabbalistic markers of spiritual presence.
In large landscape paintings hung around the perimeter of the gallery, Kiefer layers ash, lead, snakeskin, and other distressed materials, merging them with iconic German landscapes of mountains, seas, and forests. In Mount Tabor, barren furrowed fields lead to the site of Christian pilgrimage where the Transfiguration is said to have occurred. Encased in a huge vitrine, Fitzcarraldo comprises four panels on which a winter forest is painted. Clusters of thornbushes are dispersed across the surface, forming a second forest in relief. A lead U-boat noses across the panels, alluding to the late-nineteenth-century Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald, who famously orchestrated the movement of a thirty-ton boat across an isthmus to avoid treacherous conditions. The final effect is one of a mythical refuge or forest where materials are recast as transcendent elements on an epic scale.
Kiefer’s monumental archive of human memory gives overt material presence to a broad range of cultural myths and metaphors, from the Old and New Testaments to the Kabbalah, from ancient Roman history to the poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan. By constructing elaborate scenographies that fuse art and literature, painting and sculpture, Kiefer engages the complex events of history; the ancestral epics of life, death, and the cosmos; and the fragile endurance of the sacred and the spiritual amid the ongoing destruction of the world. He integrates, expands, and regenerates imagery and techniques, emphasizing the importance of acts of imagination as a tool against forgetting our culture and history.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by cultural historian and novelist Marina Warner and Anselm Kiefer’s own writings.
Anselm Kiefer and Michael Govan
On the occasion of his exhibition Anselm Kiefer: Exodus at Gagosian at Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the artist spoke with Michael Govan about his works that elaborate on themes of loss, history, and redemption.
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2022
The Winter 2022 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Anna Weyant’s Two Eileens (2022) on its cover.
Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Questionnaire: Anselm Kiefer
In this ongoing series, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist has devised a set of thirty-seven questions that invite artists, authors, musicians, and other visionaries to address key elements of their lives and creative practices. Respondents make a selection from the larger questionnaire and reply in as many or as few words as they desire. For the fourth installment, we are honored to present the artist Anselm Kiefer.
Anselm Kiefer: Architect of Landscape and Cosmology
Jérôme Sans visits La Ribaute in Barjac, France, the vast studio-estate transformed by Anselm Kiefer over the course of decades. The labyrinthine site, now open to the public, stands as a total work of art, reflecting through its grounds, pavilions, and passageways major themes in Kiefer’s oeuvre: regeneration, mythology, memory, and more.
La Ribaute: Transitive, It Transforms
Camille Morineau writes of the triumph of the feminine at Anselm Kiefer’s former studio-estate in Barjac, France, describing the site and its installations as a demonstration of women’s power, a meditation on inversion and permeability, and a reversal of the long invisibility of women in history and myth.
Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies
Bobbie Sheng explores the symbiotic relationship between the poet and visual artists of his time and tracks the enduring influence of his poetry on artists working today.
November 19, 2022–March 25, 2023
Gagosian at Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
Extended through June 26, 2021
Field of the Cloth of Gold
February 7–June 26, 2021