Beauty requires a counterpart. And in thinking about this flaw, the other flaw occurred to me as well: the Morgenthau Plan. For it too ignored the complexity of things.
Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of recent paintings and sculpture by Anselm Kiefer, which further explores the historical and formal concerns of Morgenthau Plan, his exhibition that inaugurated Gagosian Le Bourget in Paris last October.
Born at the close of World War II, Kiefer reflects upon and critiques the dangerous myths that propelled the Third Reich to power. Fusing art and literature, painting and sculpture, the artist engages German history and the ancestral epics of life, death, and the cosmos to reinforce lessons of the past.
The exhibition at Le Bourget and the subsequent body of work on view in New York draw upon the Morgenthau Plan as a metaphor for a common pitfall of the creative process—namely, works that put forth beauty without any other detectable motive. Kiefer presents the initiative as a representation of ideas—artistic and political—that ignore “the complexity of things.”
Proposed in 1944 by United States Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., the plan was conceived to transform postwar Germany into a pre-industrial, agricultural nation in order to limit the country’s ability to wage war. Morgenthau sought to divide Germany into two independent states, annexing or dismantling all German centers of industry. Although the Morgenthau Plan was never realized in its original form, it represented an alternative postwar Germany potentially occupied more by farmland and plant-life than by industry. In his latest paintings, Kiefer explores this rural landscape. Flowers—one of his central leitmotifs—bloom through the devastation.
Revisiting a process used earlier in his career, Kiefer paints directly onto color photographs of fields in bloom that he took near his property in southern France, then printed to fit canvases of various sizes. Der Morgenthau Plan depicts an area overgrown with flowers, rendered in thick impasto that completely obscures the original photograph. From top to bottom, the vast canvas dramatically transitions from light to dark, ending in a carpet of drab, black and green mulch. Morgenthau Plan: Laßt tausend Blumen Blühen / Let a thousand flowers bloom alludes to Mao Zedong’s shrewd co-optation of the idealistic classical Chinese maxim, “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend,” designed to expose and flush out anti-Communist dissidents. Kiefer reflects on the misappropriation of this passage for autocratic purposes: amid pastel blossoms, black petals spring up above the rest into a muddled ochre landscape.
O Halme, ihr Halme, O Halme der Nacht, a huge dark canvas that transports the viewer to a desolate world by night, features an airplane wing that Kiefer fabricated from metal, jutting from its upper center. Like chalk on a blackboard, faded German cursive hovers in the night sky: “O Halme, ihr Halme, O Halme der Nacht” (O Stalks, your stalks, O Stalks of the Night). In the barren landscape below, only a few stalks are blooming.
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.
Mythologies: A Conversation with Erlend Høyersten
Gagosian’s Georges Armaos speaks with the director of ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark, about the exhibition Mythologies: The Beginning and End of Civilizations, the art of Anselm Kiefer, and the role of museums during times of crisis.
Cast of Characters
James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.
Veil and Vault
An exhibition at the Broad in Los Angeles prompts James Lawrence to examine how artists give shape and meaning to the passage of time, and how the passage of time shapes our evolving accounts of art.
June 22–28, 2022
Anselm Kiefer’s monumental body of work represents a microcosm of collective memory, visually encapsulating a broad range of cultural, literary, and philosophical allusions. Drawing from sources that range from the Old and New Testaments, Kabbalah mysticism, Norse mythology, and Wagner’s Ring Cycle to the poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan, Kiefer makes palpable the complexities of human history.
Photo: Georges Poncet
Extended through June 26, 2021
Field of the Cloth of Gold
February 7–June 26, 2021
Extended through September 1, 2017
Transition from Cool to Warm
May 5–September 1, 2017
West 21st Street, New York
Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Harmony Korine, Robert Rauschenberg, Julian Schnabel, Rudolf Stingel, Franz West
June 7–July 18, 2014
555 West 24th Street, New York