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Albright-Knox Art Gallery Announces Major Acquisition and Exhibition of Anselm Kiefer Work

September 13, 2013

Community to Participate in Developing Exhibition Catalogue

Buffalo, NY Anselm Kiefer: Forget-Me-Not, an exhibition that explores the interplay of history, identity, and landscape in the work of one of the most important artists of our time, opens at the Albright-Knox on November 17, 2013. With this exhibition, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery celebrates and contextualizes a major new acquisition, Kiefer’s der Morgenthau Plan (The Morgenthau Plan), 2012, as it enters the museum’s world-renowned Collection. Forget-Me-Not builds upon the Albright-Knox’s history with the artist, whose monumental painting die Milchstrasse (The Milky Way), 1985–87, was added to its Collection more than two decades ago in celebration of the museum’s 125th anniversary.

Several major works by Kiefer (German, born 1945) form the core of the exhibition. These include the Albright-Knox’s newly acquired der Morgenthau Plan, 2012, a monumental panorama inundated with wildflowers that proliferate in the landscape surrounding the artist’s studio complex in Barjac, France; die Milchstrasse (The Milky Way), 1985­–87, an iconic depiction of a desolate, barren field; and Von der Maas bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt (From the Maas to the Memel, from the Etsch to the Belt), 2011–12, a seascape of epic proportions on loan to the museum. These works, in their layered and complex iconographies, exemplify the artist’s career-long explorations of nationalism, identity, and cultural memory. As an ensemble, they invoke the politics of landscape—the precarious relationship between nature, history, and aesthetics.

Complementing Kiefer’s works will be an installation of paintings and works on paper from the Albright-Knox’s Collection that likewise feature landscape as a means of exploring a multiplicity of subjects and significations. The works in this section of the exhibition, by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Sandra Cinto, Gustave Courbet, Willie Doherty, George Inness, Emil Nolde, Sophie Ristelhueber, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and others, provide a context for exploring three salient themes in Kiefer’s practice that also reflect the modern landscape tradition: The Political Landscape, The Psychology of Landscape, and The Transcendent Sublime.

The exhibition is conceived and initiated by Director Janne Sirén and organized by Chief Curator Douglas Dreishpoon and Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes.

The museum invites the community to play an important role in the exhibition by participating in a dual forum for expression and exchange that will result in an accompanying book scheduled for publication in 2014. Content for the book will be developed in two ways: online, the Forget-Me-Not blog will offer audiences a means of sharing observations, questions, and ruminations in text, image, video, and audio formats. Within the exhibition, a room dedicated to further learning, contemplation, and expression will be equipped with reading materials, drawing and writing supplies, and computers to provide visitors with immediate access to the Forget-Me-Not blog as well as video and audio content about the artist and his subject matter. Albright-Knox staff will review on-site and online responses and share selected submissions on the blog throughout the run of the exhibition. All submissions through February 14, 2014, will be considered for possible inclusion in the book, which will also include an in-depth interview with the artist by Dreishpoon, an essay on the contextual Collection works by Hughes, and a daily log of personal observations from the exhibition by Sirén entitled “My Ninety Days with Kiefer.”

An extended series of related programs and special events will be offered throughout the year the exhibition is on view.

Der Morgenthau Plan references what is today a little-known plan for the reorganization of the German economy in the aftermath of World War II. The Morgenthau Plan, proposed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (1891–1967), who served in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet from 1934 to 1945, called for the de-industrialization of Germany and the return of the country to a pastoral existence. It is believed that the Plan, if adopted, would have led to the death of more than ten million Germans within the first two years of the war’s end. The exhibition, with its accompanying interactive space, will offer audiences the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of the postwar period, and the important role of landscape in artistic perceptions of cultural identity.

Speaking about the acquisition of der Morgenthau Plan and the exhibition, Sirén said, “As this monumental work enters our Collection, we wanted to create an opportunity for the entire community to share and participate in exploring its multiple layers of meaning and the tumultuous, intertwined American and European histories that it reflects. We hope that visitors will spend time with the works in the exhibition, learning more about them and about how landscape shapes our identities. We invite everyone to tell us about that experience and to share it with other visitors and online with the international public. Art connects people and even continents, meaningfully and profoundly.”

Anselm Kiefer was born in Germany during the final months of World War II. It is this tumultuous period in his nation’s history that he explores in his work, touching on themes of German nationalism and culture, while employing the philosophy of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or “coming to terms with the past.” Kiefer studied informally under the influential artist Joseph Beuys (German, 1921–1986) in the 1970s and began to incorporate a variety of materials into his work thereafter, including sculptures made of carpet felt and paintings with shards of glass. While Kiefer has also explored the mediums of performance art, photography, and sculpture, he is best known for his massive canvases, which engulf the viewer both visually and psychologically. Kiefer is considered one of the leading figures in contemporary Neo-Expressionism, which involves a physically demanding method of painting and sculpting that produces highly textural works. Regarding his practice, the artist has commented, “It’s a dance. I use a very long spatula and go back and forth, like a dance.”

Kiefer’s sculptures and paintings may evoke the scorched earth and ruined buildings of postwar Germany, but they also signify transformation and rebirth. “What interests me is the transformation,” he has stated, “not the monument. I don’t construct ruins, but I feel ruins are moments when things show themselves. A ruin is not a catastrophe. It is the moment when things can start again.”

Anselm Kiefer’s works can be seen throughout the world, and he has had major exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago (1987); the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1988); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1988); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988); the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (1993); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1998); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2001); the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2005); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2006); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (2006); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2007). In 2011, he was awarded the Leo Baeck Medal from the Leo Baeck Institute, New York. He currently lives and works in France. 

Anselm Kiefer: Forget-Me-Not will remain on view until November 2, 2014.