Saturday, July 11, 2009

Anselm Kiefer's 'Zim-Zum' (detail), National Gallery East Wing, Washington, DC, 2004.

German artist Anselm Kiefer is one of the 20th century's great artists; painter, sculptor, printmaker. The scope of Kiefer's work is as vast as the troubling century that begat it. This huge piece, which occupies most of a wall at the National Gallery, is breathtaking, and remarkable in its complex imagery and materials: acrylic, emulsion, crayon, shellac, ashes, and canvas on lead. Getting a detail shot of the work is more meaningful to me than seeing a tiny image of the piece. When I taught Art History, I would make my students get out to museums so that they could interact with real art, and not just look at bad slides in a dark and airless room - although I made them look at a lot of bad slides in dark and airless rooms. One of the shocking and disturbing things about the art history department of the University of Massachusetts, where I studied, is that they were proud of having no relationship with artists. As an artist, I found that attitude deplorable. I always maintained that you can have art without art historians, but there would be no art historians without art.

I am including a link to the Kiefer piece, and encourage you to check out more of Kiefer's work.

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Connecticut to see an installation of a huge Kiefer work, housed in a specially-designed building on the grounds of the Aldrich Museum. "The piece, Velimir Chlebnikov, features a group of thirty paintings inspired by Velimir Chlebnikov, a Russian eccentric poet and thinker who has long fascinated Kiefer." (From the Aldrich's web site.) The 30 huge paintings are arranged in grids on facing walls of the building, and a quote is scrawled on the wall opposite the entry. 

If you visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) - more on that in another post - they have exhibited (it may still be up as of this writing) a huge concrete Kiefer piece that a Connecticut collector was court-ordered to remove from his lawn. Philistines! Anyway, I will more than likely post some of my photos of the work on this site. 

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