Several paintings and a colossal sculpture by Anselm Kiefer are on view at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The works are on extended loan from the visionary collection of Andy and Christine Hall.
The highlight of the exhibition is the eighty-two foot long cast concrete sculpture, “Etroits sont les Vaisseaux” (Narrow Are the Vessels). The collectors had the piece installed in the garden at their home in Fairfield, Connecticut. Unfortunately, the local Historic District Commission took an ignorant stance on the placement of the masterwork. The Halls were cited for failing to apply for a “certificate of appropriateness” and the sculpture was removed. A minor victory for small minds but the real winners in this fiasco are the citizens of New England as they are now able to experience this wonderful piece in person.
The work of Anselm Kiefer registers as evidence to the ravages of war. The desolate environments he creates reflect these horrors with a sense of loss. These landscapes combine the secrets of what once was with the promise of reconstruction.
“Lightning with Stag in Its Glare” (not pictured) a bronze cast environment by Joseph Beuys can be found in adjacent gallery. Kiefer studied with Beuys in the 1970’s. Beuys stressed the importance of social themes and alternative materials in the process of making art. It was during this time that Kiefer set the foundation for his muse.
I was once reprimanded by a museum guard for touching an Anselm Kiefer painting. My action was not an attempt at vandalism or a show of disrespect. I was quite frankly mesmerized and literally lost control. To anyone that has ever worked in thick paint I guarantee a similar encounter. Please, though, keep your paws to yourself. Since this embarrassment I have made a point to thrust my hands into pockets when I enter an exhibition. Alternatively I recommend clasping a wrist behind you “European style”. One can never be too careful.
Sculpture and Painting
through October 2009
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art