Louisa Buck, Karl Ove Knausgård, Anselm Kiefer, James Lawrence, New York, 2017.
Hardcover, 280 pp., Color illustrations, 10 1/4 × 12 1/8 inches.
Employing broad-ranging and erudite literary sources, from the Old and New Testaments to the poetry of Paul Celan, Kiefer’s oeuvre makes palpable the movement and destruction of human life and, at the same time, the persistence of the delicate, lyrical, or divine.
Central to the exhibition are more than forty unique artists’s books, their pages painted with gesso to mimic marble, displayed in an installation of glass vitrines. Erotically charged female nudes and faces emerge from the pages. Artists’s books are an integral part of Kiefer’s oeuvre; over time they have ranged in scale from the intimate to the monumental, and in materials, from lead to dried plant matter. In this selection of books, the sequences of narrative information and visual effect evoke the fragile endurance of the sacred and the spiritual through the female figures on the marbled pages. They are a reminder perhaps of the sculptures of Auguste Rodin, and even of Michelangelo’s belief that his figures were “freed” from the stone with which he worked.
The large array of new watercolors in this exhibition marks a significant return in Kiefer's work to the elusive and sensuous medium. The exhibition’s title, “Transition from Cool to Warm,” refers to a celebrated book of watercolors that he produced from 1974 to 1977, in which cool, blue marine land and seascapes transform into warm female nudes. Kiefer's fascination for eidetic process, rather than teleological outcome is underscored by the alchemical effects he achieves in these new works—aleatory, and as luminescent as the natural forms they evoke.
The watercolors and books are complemented by romantic landscape paintings, in which lakes can be glimpsed through screens of trees or where surfaces of splashed molten lead peel back to reveal the sea or landscape depicted beneath.