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Anselm Kiefer: Atonement, Art, and Redemption

By Bea Aaronson

A German artist who is still working into his 70s, Anselm Kiefer’s art is not for the meek!

Work from Anselm Kiefer
Tue, Feb 13, 3:30pm
The Jewish Cultural Center of San Miguel
Calle de las Moras 47 (corner Cinco de Mayo)
150 pesos nonmembers
130 pesos members
Please come at least 15 minutes ahead
For reservations call 152 0236

Totally consumed by the past and the history of Germany, above all the Nazi catastrophe. Kiefer 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 does reawaken our collective memory—and by doing so, our very consciousness.

Kiefer’s art enacts a moral responsibility which must be shared by the spectator. He indeed questions our responsibility and the role of art in history. The existential grayness which pervades his creations projects a feeling of melancholia, doom, anxiety, and mourning, but it also oozes a sense of hope, however deeply buried under his pessimism. The furious nihilism might first startle. But slowly, it alchemically transforms into a purely human emotion, pregnant with the paradox of uncertainty within certainty.

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 it be photographs, paintings, woodcuts, collages, assemblages, sculptures, or huge site-specific installations, Kiefer’s titanic multimedia works shatter within the viewer any dimension of security. Within the intimacy and grandeur of his work, within all it contains of illusions, disillusions, and delusions, Kiefer’s art also presents a vertigo of historical, mythical, literary, poetical recollections. Inscribed in his work it shake the viewer’s present into another dimension of life.

In this presentation, I shall reveal to you the most salient parts of Kiefer’s life, his artistic affinities with Joseph Beuys, with 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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