27 September – 14 December 2014
Painting, sculpture, photography and installation span 40 years of the German artist's career.
For Anselm Kiefer, art is an attempt to 'get to the centre of the truth', although he also acknowledges 'it never quite can'. This might explain why he has produced works such as Occupations and Heroic Symbols (Heroische Sinnbilder) – photographs depicting Kiefer as he re-enacted the Nazi salute in locations across Europe – which address rather than suppress the darkness of his national history. The series is one of the highlights of the retrospective, shown alongside To the Unknown Painter (Dem unbekannten Maler), which reflects on the neo-classicist buildings of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect.
Before he started painting Kiefer studied law, Romance languages and literature. As such, his art wrestles with a range of diverse issues, from spirituality to philosophy to mythology. Among his many influences are the Old and New testaments, Kabbalah and the poetry of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. The exhibition considers the key themes that Kiefer has explored over the course of his career, and reveals how sense of place has influenced his practice.
Characteristic of Kiefer's work is an ambitious use of materials; drawing on clay, ash, earth, lead, fabric, straw, shellac and dried flowers, as well as other non conventional matter, his encrusted canvases lie between the distinctions of painting and sculpture. Many of his most distinctive works are shown here, such as Father, Son and the Holy Ghost (Vater, Sohn, Heiliger Geist) and The Orders of the Night (Die Orden der Nacht).
Kiefer has created several new works for the exhibition, including a number of large-scale paintings and sculptures, as well as a dramatic installation for the Royal Academy’s courtyard.