20 Jan-31 March 2006. The German artist displays his work. By the 1980s the German art scene was so saturated with the spirit of Joseph Beuys and his followers that wits called Germany "Beuysland" instead of "Deutschland". Kiefer was a student of Beuys and picked up his love for decayed things that had had other lives but he turned Beuyss rhetoric, his exhorting stance to better yourself and assume a new political attack, into a grim but romantic revery. He made vast reliefs of sticks and stones and metal airplane and tank parts, seething over expanses of wooden planks as landscapes, as illuminated caves, as hells, as battlefields. Romantic despair, wastelands of grey and brown, signified a feeling of defeat and resurrection which was genuine.
In January 2005 at the French Academy in Villa Medici, in his show "Die Frauen" the smell of decay was tangible and bitter and tinged with lingering nostalgia.
Kiefer had always been more obvious than Gerhard Richter, the other great German best seller of the moment, and is too obvious now. He, the vindicator of dessicated nature and machine trash embalmed in glue, is all there in his brazen distressed reliefs made to lend glamour to fancy international living rooms.
Pods and stalks of sunflowers are cast in bronze sheets of lead and splintered beams make gritty spiky spreads. There are photographs of triple-decker sandwiches and tottering towers of old newsprint and tattered books. But today Kiefers grand romantic yearning and his handling of detritus as a memento to a tragic past done with knowledgeable technique has become a display of technique alone. Edith Schloss
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