Anselm Kiefer review

4 out of 5 stars
Anselm Kiefer review
Anselm Kiefer (2019) © Anselm Kiefer. Image courtesy of White Cube (Theo Christelis)

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A single nightmare recurs ceaselessly in Anselm Kiefer’s monumental, enormous new exhibition at White Cube’s cavernous Bermondsey gallery. The leading German artist paints a field – nothing specific, just variations on some anonymous field – over and over again. It has been laid to waste: the vegetation is charred, the furrows are filled with ash and have turned to mud. Runes and axes litter the landscapes, millions of strings and threads hang tangled in ceiling-height vitrines. Something has gone very wrong here, and Big Kief is trying to figure it out.

The rooms are crammed full of those gigantic post-apocalyptic paintings. Twigs and hay and mud hang off them. In all the endless black and brown of these wartorn vistas you spot specks of ultramarine and blood red, little daubs of yellow. They’re violent, wounded, terrifying paintings.

Huge vitrines line the central corridor, each one filled with a mess of cables, their glass fronts scrawled with unreadable mathematical equations. Kief, it seems, has decided to get into string theory: a very complicated unified theory of the mechanics of the universe.

This combination of runes, Norse mythology and mind-bending physics tells you a lot about where Kiefer is at right now, as an artist and a person. He’s trying to understand, he’s wrestling with meaning, attempting to comprehend the world, history, his legacy and art itself. Those big war-ravaged canvases are classic Kiefer – the detritus of the twentieth century laid bare – but he’s not so sure about it all any more. He’s asking why? how? why? how? again and again.

I mean, realistically, this whole thing gives you about as much insight into string theory as a plate of spaghetti, but as a symbol of Kiefer’s attempt to find meaning in this increasingly meaningless world, it works seriously well. It’s staggering, huge art for staggering, huge problems


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