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Anselm Kiefer (B. 1945)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more VISIONARIES: WORKS FROM THE EMILY AND JERRY SPIEGEL COLLECTION
Anselm Kiefer (B. 1945)

Malen = Verbrennen

Details
Anselm Kiefer (B. 1945)
Malen = Verbrennen
oil on burlap
86 3/4 x 118 in. (220.3 x 300 cm.)
Painted in 1974.
Provenance
Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1983
Literature
Anselm Kiefer, exh. cat., Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1984, pp. 54 and 179, no. 25 (illustrated).
Anselm Kiefer, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1987, p. 62, pl. 25 (illustrated in color).
J. van Splunder, Anselm Kiefer: Een Iconologische Benadering, Amsterdam, 1988, pp. 2 and 24 (illustrated in color).
E. Pretorius, A hermeneutic investigation of the parergon in artmaking, with special reference to Anselm Kiefer, Master's Thesis, University of South Africa, 1992, pp. vi, 75 and 142, fig. 11 (illustrated in color).
L. Hutcheon, Irony's Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony, London, 1994, pp. 113-114.
T. Carrington-Windo and K. Kohl, eds., A Dictionary of Contemporary Germany, London, 1996, p. 235.
Anselm Kiefer: Am Anfang, exh. cat., Salzburg, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 2003, p. 39 (illustrated).
N. Stiassny, Anselm Kiefer/Ingeborg Bachmann: Visual Translation of Poetic Figuration, Jerusalem, 2013, pp. 46 and 57, fig. 4 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
39th Venice Biennale, German Pavilion, Anselm Kiefer: Verbrennen, Verholzen, Versenken, Versanden, June-November 1980, n.p. (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, German Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985, October-December 1985, n.p., no. 299 (illustrated in color).
Venice, Museo Correr, Anselm Kiefer: Himmel-Herde, June-November 1997, pp. 140 and 415 (illustrated in color).
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, German Images: Art from a Divided Land, September 1997-January 1998.
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, June-September 2006.
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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

“The palette represents the art of painting; everything else which can be seen in the painting—for example, the landscape—is as the beauty of nature, annihilated by the palette. You could put it this way: the palette wants to abolish the beauty of nature. It is all very complicated, because it actually does not become annihilated at all.” Anselm Kiefer

“The use of the palette represents the idea of the artist connecting heaven and earth.” Anselm Kiefer

An artist’s palette superimposed over a charred landscape, a ghostly outline hovering as if to fade into a cloudlike mist, Malen=Verbrennen (Painting=Burning) depicts devastation and loss, as well as the poignant irony of an artist attempting to portray the impossible—the strained relationship between the creative act and the destruction of the earth. A sense, too, of nostalgia in the halo of the palette, recruiting memories of lost authority, even spiritual loss in its suggestion of the aura of light as divine grace or more. Kiefer’s use of the drip is expressive here, suggesting rain or tears, perhaps, and in some interpretations, a hail of bullets. Thus, the conflation of palette with blackened earth connects Art per se with both violence and redemption.

The palette in Kiefer’s work becomes a central emblem here, functioning metaphorically both as a symbol of heaven and of earthly aggression. Its hovering nebulous quality in the present work equates it with works such as Die Donauquelle (The Source of the Danube), 1978, in which the rising of the palette out of the Danube can be linked to the rising of soul to heaven, or in The Painter’s Guardian Angel, 1984, where a direct relationship to an otherwordly heaven is made. “The reality was so overwhelming, so incredible that I had to use myths to express my emotions. The facts were figures, places, buildings. The reality was too onerous to be real. I had to work through myth to recreate it” (A. Kiefer, “Interview with Bernard Comment,” Art Press, Paris, Sept, 1998). In a work like Kyffhaüser, the palette replaces the mythical sword, Nothung, belonging to Friedrich Barbarossa who is said to sleep under the Kieferhäuser Hills until Germany’s greatest hour of need. Just as Barbarossa will save the nation, so too, the artist can act in its defense (M. Rosenthal, Anselm Kiefer, New York, 1989, p. 80). Kiefer has said of the palette’s symbolism, “The use of the palette represents the idea of the artist connecting heaven and earth. He works here but he looks up there. He is always moving between the two realms. The artists are like the shamans, who when they were meditating would sit in a tree in order to suspend themselves between heaven and earth. The palette can transform reality by suggesting new visions. Or you could say that the visionary experience finds its way to the material world through the palette” (A. Kiefer, quoted in M. Auping, Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, Fort Worth, 2005, p. 171).

Kiefer’s art can be said to revolve around several thematic ideas and this lends to his work a cyclical quality. Kiefer revisits over again a set of ideas in various formal iterations that are interconnected, revisited, restated. His art does not follow an evolutionary trajectory in the way other artists can claim in “early, middle, or late” period. His use of materials and techniques results in an array of expressions that conjoin as an overall authorial style. This use of materials can be said to be nearly ritualistic, like his mentor Joseph Beuys used felt and fat. His connection between heaven and earth is uppermost in his mind as are the materials he uses to create his art. They are inherently changeable through mutation, as if undergoing an internal alchemical process. The present work uses only oil over burlap, adding texture to the surface in a way that supports visual meaning.

Having grown up surrounded by the shattered debris from serial bombings that remained after the war, his notion of destruction and rebirth were part of his personal visual ecology. “I was born in ruins. So as a child I played in ruins, it was the only place. A child accepts everything; he doesn’t ask if it’s good or bad. But I also like ruins because they are a starting point for something new” (A. Kiefer, Conversation with M. Gayford, in M. Gayford, Anselm’s Alchemy, London, 2014).With its gridded rows over a vast expanse of blackened and rutted landmasses receding into a low horizon line, the marking of splashed blues and browns convey the sense of a compressed landscape, the thickened impasto, in diagonal brush strokes indicating mounds of ashes. Burlap support creates a firm, brittle texture that underscores the thematic of a singed earth. As Kiefer’s mentor Joseph Beuys has remarked, “Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline” (J. Beuys, “Directional Forces,” in M. Rosenthal, Anselm Kiefer, New York, 1989, p. 60). Kiefer’s iconographical symbol becomes the palette in the present work, representing the task of art to reconcile and in his art synthesize the oppositions inhering heaven/earth and idealism/reality. Curator Mark Rosenthal understood Kiefer’s symbolic use of atavistic figures to represent the activities of the painter to a kind of dictatorial activity that results in the scorching of the earth. “Kiefer is characterizing the painter and political leader as deluded seekers after immortality… [speaking] of the figurative need to burn away the efforts of his predecessors in order to create something new and important. In these works, it is the tradition of landscape painting that is confronted and reinvented” (M. Rosenthal, ibid., p. 60).

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