Art Anselm Kiefer’s fallen angels are us
Artexhibitioninstallation

Anselm Kiefer’s fallen angels are us

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Giorgia Massari
anselm kiefer | Collater.al

The devastation brought by Anselm Kiefer‘s works to Palazzo Strozzi is not new to our eyes, yet it shocks and disturbs the soul of those who cross the entrance of the Renaissance building. Not even the gold leaf, which the German artist uses in large quantities, is able to dim the sensation of heaviness that pervades the spaces. The strong smell of acrylic and oil that pervades every room makes the exhibition experience even more suffocating. It all begins with the fall of Lucifer, the angel of Light relegated to darkness. Above his body is positioned a wing protruding from the canvas, but it is not an angel’s wing, like the one soaring in the courtyard artwork; instead, it is that of an airplane. This three-dimensional image immediately refers to contemporaneity. If on one hand flight, a great achievement of man, is indeed freedom, on the other hand, it is inevitable not to think of war. The silence that permeates the rooms full of people becomes even more deafening in front of the work Locus solus (The lonely place), which sees a broken, arid surface, dense with the cracks typical of Kiefer’s production, here scattered with teeth. Nothing remains of the fallen angels – to quote the title of the exhibition – except the teeth, the only ante-mortem identity that man leaves on earth. Thus, the transience of life, evoked several times, accompanies the viewer throughout the journey, echoing even in the last room in the words of Salvatore Quasimodo: Each one stands alone on the heart of the earth / pierced by a ray of sunlight: and it is immediately evening.

©photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

Quasimodo’s poetry is not the only text in the exhibition. Anselm Kiefer’s connection to words is certainly not something new, but here, if one thinks of the exhibition two years ago at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, it is constant and even more layered. The phrases Kiefer borrows from philosophers and thinkers are a pretext, or rather, the genesis of his every creative process. What happens among the rooms of the Florentine palace is an encounter between the ancient and the contemporary. Philosophy, literature, mythology dictate the construction of the signifier, then leaving meaning free to modulate and shape itself on the themes of the present. Think of the work Cynara, a huge golden canvas from which (real) artichokes covered in gold emerge. The latter are precisely Cynara, the nymph who rejected Zeus and was therefore condemned to a tragic fate. Or the Sunflower Room, a clear homage to Van Gogh, which becomes a golden critique (in every sense) of humanity. Here the allegory is provided by the sun god Baal, or more generally by all solar cults – Sol Invictus – reminding us also of the myth of Icarus, which underscores the human desire to exceed one’s limits, ignoring them and then proving to be a failure, leading to tragic consequences.

anselm kiefer | Collater.al

Anselm Kiefer’s fallen angels are all of us. The German artist reminds us today without any sweetness, but rather with that raw materiality that distinguishes him. Burned clothes that preserve nonexistent bodies. Snakes that refer to sin and the temptation of evil, which we choose to indulge. Withered plants, with no more water to feed on. And then again, in the third room, a great tribute to the Greek thinkers and philosophers, whom we remember and study so much, but can no longer follow any of their teachings. We are the fallen angels because once again we are allowing humanity to plummet. We either welcome the destruction or we do not want to see it. We dance without realizing it on the rubble of humanity, which for Kiefer «are like the flower of a plant; they are the radiant apex of an unceasing metabolism, the beginning of a rebirth».

©photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

The exhibition Anselm Kiefer. Fallen Angels is open from March 22 to July 21, 2024 at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and is promoted and organized by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi with the support of the City of Florence, the Region of Tuscany, the Chamber of Commerce of Florence, and private individuals, Fondazione CR Firenze, Committee of Partners of Palazzo Strozzi. Intesa Sanpaolo as main partner. With the contribution of Città Metropolitana di Firenze. With the support of Gagosian. Thanks to Maria Manetti Shrem and Hillary Merkus Recordati Foundation.

anselm kiefer | Collater.al
©photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio
anselm kiefer | Collater.al
©photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio
Artexhibitioninstallation
Written by Giorgia Massari
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