White Cube

Anselm Kiefer

16 Oct - 14 Nov 2009

© Anselm Kiefer
Aus dunklen Fichten flog ins blau der Aar, 2009
Lead, photography, brambles, acrylic, oil, emulsion, ash and shellac on canvas in steel and glass frame
130 11/16 x 226 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. (332 x 576 x 35 cm)
Photo: Charles Duprat
"Karfunkelfee and The Fertile Crescent"

16 Oct—14 Nov 2009
Hoxton Square and Mason's Yard

White Cube Mason’s Yard
The Fertile Crescent
White Cube Hoxton Square

White Cube is pleased to present two new series of works by the internationally acclaimed artist Anselm Kiefer. The exhibitions will be staged at White Cube Mason’s Yard and White Cube Hoxton Square and constitute the largest gallery showing of Kiefer’s art ever staged in London.

The new work continues to confront the violence and paradoxes of human history, its endless cycle of creation and destruction. The paintings are allusive, not illustrative, with an emphatic material and spiritual presence. They seem almost sensuously painted but are the result of a long process during which both the artist and the elements have attacked the canvas.

At Mason’s Yard, Kiefer will show a series of forest diptychs and triptychs enclosed in glass vitrines, many filled with dense Moroccan thorns. The title ‘Karfunkelfee’, which has its antecedents in German Romanticism, stems from a poem by the post-war Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann:

On the golden bridge, only he who might know
the fairy’s secret word can win.
I’m sorry to say, along with our last snow,
it melted in the garden.

The associations, for Kiefer, are mythical, geological, alchemical and profoundly ambiguous. ‘The interesting thing about the Karfunkelfee or “Karfunkelfaerie”’, says Kiefer, ‘is her ambiguous appearance. She can be a fairy godmother as well as the evil one. The description of the karfunkel stone itself is paradoxical. It glows bright red at night but cannot be seen by day. It is associated too with the ergot which renders grain black and often causes severe famine’.

In ‘The Fertile Crescent’ in Hoxton Square, Kiefer will present a group of epic paintings inspired initially by a trip to India fifteen years ago where he first encountered rural brick factories. Sun-dried mud bricks are piled up to create monumental structures akin to ancient pyramids or temples. A vast fire is built inside these factories to bake the bricks that are subsequently dismantled and dispersed in an ongoing cycle of construction and deconstruction. Over the past decade the photographs Kiefer took in India have, as the artist describes it, ‘reverberated’ in his mind to suggest a vast array of cultural and historical references, spanning from the first great human civilisation of Mesopotamia to the ruins of Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War, where he played as a small boy. The resulting paintings are rich, multi-layered and open to numerous readings but their impact is universal: ‘Anyone in search of a resonant meditation on the instability of built grandeur’, wrote the historian Simon Schama in his catalogue essay, ‘would do well to look hard at Kiefer’s The Fertile Crescent’.

Anselm Kiefer was born in 1945 in Donaueschingen in Southern Germany. He has lived and worked in France since 1991. Kiefer is regarded as one of the most important and influential artists working today. Exhibitions of his painting, sculptures, drawings and installations have been staged extensively over the past four decades and his work is included in the world’s most prestigious public and private collections. Recent projects include the Grand Palais, Paris and Guggenheim Bilbao. In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist to be given a permanent commission to install work at the Louvre, Paris since Georges Braque some 50 years earlier. He also created an opera, ‘Am Anfang’, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris, which was staged 7-14 July 2009.

A fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Simon Schama and an interview with the artist by Tim Marlow, will be published to accompany the exhibition.

Tags: Georges Braque, Anselm Kiefer