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Anselm Kiefer: Atonement, Art, and Redemption

By Béa Aaronson

“Art is difficult.”
“Art is not entertainment.”
“A painting is a conglomeration of failings,
but we can say this of life also.”
-Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer is a German artist, still working today at 70. His art is not for the meek! Kiefer is totally consumed by the past and history of Germany, above all the Nazi Catastrophe. He creates in order to atone and redeem. He creates in order to exorcize the haunting guilt still felt in Germany’s moral and spiritual crisis. He creates in order to find some sort of peace within himself. Kiefer also ponders with strength about the twilight of our civilization, fully aware that art does not change the world, but that it does reawaken our collective memory and doing so, our very consciousness.

Anselm Kiefer: Atonement, Art, and Redemption
Mon, Feb 8, 4pm
The Jewish Cultural Center of San Miguel, the JC3
Calle de Las Moras 47, corner of Cinco de Mayo
For reservations: 185 9191 or
130 pesos members/150 pesos nonmembers

Far away from the instant gratification of a Damien Hirst trendy shock-thirsty production, Kiefer’s art enacts a moral responsibility, which must be shared by the spectator. Kiefer indeed questions our responsibility and the role of art in history. The existential grayness, which pervades his creations, although projecting a feeling of melancholia, doom, anxiety, and mourning, also oozes a sense of hope, however deeply buried under his pessimism. The furious nihilism that might first startle you, slowly, alchemically transforms into a purely human emotion, pregnant with the paradox of uncertainty within certainty. Because Kiefer is an alchemist. He literally turns ashes into the gold of understanding. Reaching right to the core of the human condition, his work stands as an inexorable witness to human folly.

Whether photographs, paintings, woodcuts, collages, assemblages, sculptures, huge site specific installations, Kiefer’s titanic multimedia works will not fault from shattering within you any dimension of security. Within the intimacy and grandeur of his work, with all it contains of illusions, disillusions, and delusions, Kiefer’s art also presents a vertigo of historical, mythical, literary, poetical recollections, which he has inscribed in his work, and which will shake your present into another dimension of life.

In this presentation, I shall of course reveal to you the most salient parts of his life, his artistic affinities with Joseph Beuys, Neue Realism, and Expressionism. I shall also ever so humbly guide you through his deep connection to the Jewish soul, especially to the poet Paul Celan, to whom he dedicated his powerful series Margarete. Now, for a post-Holocaust German artist, this is no simple matter. But suffice to say that without his connection to the Jewish sensitivity and suffering, there would be no Anselm Kiefer. I invite you to discover or reacquaint yourself with this formidable artist whose contemporary gaze will hopefully move something very powerful inside of you. If there is one artist in the 21st century you ought to recognize, I believe with all my heart it is Anselm Kiefer.


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