The Colossal Art of Kiefer At Royal Academy
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
Anselm Kiefer is known for creating momentous works of art on a grand scale, and to ensure visitors know what to expect they will be greeted by giant vitrines in the Royal Academy's courtyard. Rusted submarines hang suspended as if submerged underwater, while in the second vitrine they appear as sunken shells on the 'ocean floor'.
Inside, the exhibition starts with a young Kiefer creating controversial paintings featuring the German artist posing with a Nazi salute. This highlights how he grew up in the aftermath of the second world war, yet schools often chose to skirt over this period in German history.
Historic references are combined with monumental scale in his depictions of buildings constructed during the Third Reich, which loom ominously over visitors. Similarly, this sense of scale is evoked by giant black sunflowers appearing to look down upon a corpse.
Kiefer is renowned for his use of materials incorporated into paintings including straw, copper wire and clay, giving his works a texture and life beyond standard paintings. In other works, a pair of trainers hangs off a forest scene and elsewhere burnt books extend outwards resembling shelves.
A totemic sculpture is made up of blank canvases surrounded by leaf litter and sprouting giant funghi, and is a testament to both Kiefer's perfectionism and the weight of history that can be found in his art.
There is a wonderful duality to Kiefer; his works can be appreciated on a purely aesthetic level for innovative use of materials and their texture, but there is also a deeper level of historic gravitas to his art. Both of these combined with the colossal scale of his work, which images cannot do justice, make for an overwhelmingly powerful retrospective and one of the exhibitions of the year.
For more great art to see in London, visit our September listings.
Last Updated 27 September 2014