Magazine article Artforum International

Anselm Kiefer: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Magazine article Artforum International

Anselm Kiefer: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Article excerpt

Anselm Kiefer's work is so well known, and has been so extensively written about and exhibited, one wondered what "Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth," a traveling survey recently at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, could possibly add to the dialogue. The answer: both not much and a whole lot.

Positing the artist's inquiry into spirituality--a Sisyphean search for heaven in particular--as a key to understanding his symbolically rich, historically layered oeuvre, curator Michael Auping organized a deeply engrossing, thematically focused survey. One way to begin considering this exhibition is to remember Kiefer's 1987 touring retrospective and the accompanying catalogue essay by Mark Rosenthal. Rosenthal articulates the developmental arc of the German painter's historical iconography with a clarity that stands in stark contrast to some subsequent treatments, such as Daniel Arasse's 2001 monograph and Christoph Ransmayr's catalogue essay for the Foundation Beyeler's 2001-2002 show "Anselm Kiefer: The Seven Heavenly Palaces 1973-2001," which fall victim to lugubrious prose and overwrought interpretation.

Auping says he's uninterested in "complicating Kiefer" and concentrates specifically on the metaphysical content of the work, subordinating detailed analyses of iconography and what he calls the works' "German-ness." (He cites Kiefer's earliest surviving work, The Heavens, 1969, a delicate book, in support of his thesis.) It's a major curatorial gamble that risks diminishing the import of a body of work that for more than thirty years has explored issues of guilt, redemption, identity, and remembrance by synthesizing images from Nazi Germany, Norse mythology, Christianity, and Kabbalism. However, Auping's approach succeeds in actually reinvigorating Kiefer's painting, sculpture, and artist's books. The seminal painting Man im Wald (Man in the Forest), 1971, for example--hung in the show's first room--seems to have acquired a renewed aura of idealism. …

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