Super Size Art

Kiefer commands the room

Typically, people who react to museum art with physical symptoms (temporary heart stoppages and ambulatory failure, or just a hand thrown to the forehead as if feeling faint) are either characters in novels (mostly weak genre fiction) and those who make a point, by dint of personality or job requirement, to be dumbstruck on a regular basis. Although I wasn't quite gobsmacked when I stepped into the second room of the Anselm Kiefer exhibit "Heaven and Earth," I did let loose a low whistle. These paintings are freaking huge! Yes, I'm a sucker for big art, but only when someone goes large in the manner of this German artist, who attends to each inch of canvas with a detail that belies how many thousands more he has to go. Kiefer's dark, overwhelming landscapes are roughly and chaotically layered, often several inches thick, with materials like paint, clay, ash, and wood. One piece features a giant dead sunflower; another is covered with about a million sunflower seeds, which resemble a rock storm or a swarm of locusts. Up close, you get stunning topography. Step back 30 or 40 feet, and the paintings' themes of mythology, alchemy, and religious mysticism are revealed in all their floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glory. Kiefer also throws in sculptures of jumbo lead books and even a jet airplane, edging him into the modern art tradition, but his paintings go right for your respiratory system.
Oct. 20-Jan. 21

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