One of the reasons I love the work of Anselm Kiefer is the visceral response the work generates. Particularly his landscapes. Much of his work seems to be very enigmatic but the emotional and physical response is always there for me.
The first time I saw one of Anselm Kiefer’s painting in person was at SFMoMA. I sat before two of his monumental canvas works, Sulamith 1983 and Osiris und Isis (Osiris and Isis) 1985-1987. Painting is the wrong word to describe the works. They are sculptures on canvas. Sitting in front of Sulamith one could see the artist building his image, drawing a paintbrush or pallet knife through a thick amalgam of oil and straw. You could feel the space, the texture of its dank sooted walls. You could feel Kiefer. You didn’t necessarily need to know the context of his work (though you’re richer for it), his feels came through both in the imagery and process.
It is fascinating to see how he takes his approach to the medium of photography. These photographic landscapes and mix media work come out of a catalog collecting 33 of Kiefer’s book works entitled “Anselm Kiefer: Books 1969-1990“. Some taken by him and others appropriated, he manipulated the images over the progression of the book in a way that literally and figuratively draws your attention to deterioration. Deterioration in the surface of the images and the in unfolding landscape. Images of roads and fields turn dark and foreboding as smoke and fire consume the landscape. His processing similarly consumes the images till in the end your left with blackened final spread.