Monday, December 13, 2010


The Hitlergruß, the famed salute Hitler used, and which became ubiquitous in Nazi Germany, is the most indelible image in the Anselm Kiefer show at Gogosian. It is oddly removed, first by time, and then by space. The central installation in the exhibit is called “Occupations” and is composed of 76 photographic images of Kiefer making the salute in 1969 in front of varying European structures. The images are hung within a steel structure from which they are only partially visible. So what are we to deduce? An image from history is one thing. The resurrection of an image from history, performed as an artistic act and then allowed to ferment over a period of 41 years, is another. Hitler died in the bunker in ’45. These photographic images were taken 24 years later. So we are dealing with the residue of a reality and then two levels of memory, which in essence the artist seeks to unearth as archeologists do in a dig. Kiefer, like Freud, seems to be obsessed with archeology and with the layers of memory that are created by human acts. The exhibition also contains a number of peripheral objects contained in vitrines, which almost resemble aquariums filled with artifacts frozen in time. One of these, containing submarines and ships, alludes in another way to the war and is haunting not for the objects it contains but for the empty space in which they hang. Occupation is what an invading army performs. It is also a job— and something to which minds are held hostage.

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