Sunday, November 5, 2023

Anselm: The Most Transcendental Artist of Our Time in 3D

  By José Alberto Hermosillo 

“Anselm” is a luminous and poetic documentary about the monumental artwork of the German iconoclast Anselm Kiefer.

Directed by Award-winning filmmaker Wim Wenders (“Wings of Desire,” “Faraway, So Close,” “Paris, Texas,” “Pina 3D,” “The Salt of Earth” and most recently “Perfect Days” in Japan), titled in German, “Anselm – Das Rauschen der Zeit” unfolds a deep understanding of Kiefer's oeuvre, focusing not on his personal life but on his body of work. The documentary adds 3D and a 6K resolution, a fascinating luster to the immersive experience of Kiefer's art and glory. 

As the story evolves, to see him working passionately and intensely inside his considerably large studio in the Renaissance town of Barjac, south of France, is a delight for all the senses.

The German artist is one of the most important exponents of Neo-expressionism. Many considered him a humanist for reflecting an essential part of the human condition in his work. The nonconventional visionary artist works with all the elements he can find in his surroundings. 
He likes to expand outside the framing to create his vast masterpieces. The mixed media on canvas he uses is only a tiny part of his architectural interiors and immense landscapes.
For one of his series, he burns an enormous amount of dry grass on a wall. He adds paint, plasters, concrete, and molded metal – giving the canvas a unique structure, shape, color, texture, depth, and smell. 

Anselm Kiefer's artwork transmits a sense of universality and infinite freedom to the spectator.

Anselm Kiefer was born in the Black Forest of the Southern town of Donaueschingen, Germany, in 1945, just at the end of WWII. His influences are the Norse legend, Wagnerian Opera, and Germany's Nationalistic identity, including the Nazi shameful period he brought to the center of the conversation.
The extraordinary footage of the film includes still photographs from when he was thirty, making it seem like he was different back then. Anselm Kiefer was a provocateur doing a photography series traveling around the world dressed in his father’s Wehrmacht uniform (German Arm Forces), displaying the Nazi salute during the 1968-1969 period.
He started as a bold artist who worked on the borderline between the conventional and the controversial presentation of his creations, ideologically speaking.
In contrast, he vividly paints the other side of history evenly by exposing the gas chambers of the concentration camps during the Holocaust. Other essential works also refer to the exodus of the Jewish community to Israel, which can be appreciated in the exhibits. From one particular point of view, he cannot deny the obscure past of his heritage. Nevertheless, we can find healing and reconciliation through his magnificent art.

In some of his pieces, he compares mushrooms with cancer cells, and we can see how those fungi expand rapidly in the woods as cancer in the human body.

The indelible reality of Kiefer’s work comes in the series titled “Memory,” which I find similar sentiments reflected in the creation of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Still, at a large scale, where what people see is not what the piece exactly represents, it is essential to know Kiefer’s work because it is transcendental for the ages.
Some people accused him of fascist, but Mr. Kiefer cannot control people's reactions to his creations. He can not be standing in front of every piece telling viewers, “I am antifascist,” to defend himself. Nowadays, it still is not clear what he was before, but certainly, he is not a Neo-Nazi.

Anselm Kiefer has exhibited those gigantic pieces in Venice, Bilbao, Hamburg, Tel Aviv, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, to mention a few cities where his work has been acclaimed.

The nonintrusive cinematography was done by Wender’s frequent D.P. collaborator Franz Lustig (“Aftermath,” “Perfect Days,” “Don’t Come Knocking”). 

The arresting visuals surrounding Kiefer’s work create a mystical atmosphere where spectators continue wondering more about his creations and his personal life in a more intimate setting. Still, that story is yet to come shortly in a French or probably Hollywood biopic. For now, we must be content with this astonishing documentary.
The purpose of art and cinema, in particular, is to open up the discussion about the life and work of a controversial artist and to make audiences aware of the existence of such an essential and celebrated talent like Anselm Kiefer.

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