As 2017 comes to an end, I’d like to dedicate a post to two museums I visited in Seattle and LA during September – the S.A.M (Seattle Art Museum) and The Broad – and how Anslem Kiefer and Joseph Beuys unexpectedly connected both of them for me.
Earlier in February, when I was visiting my sister in LA, I fell in love with Anslem Kiefer’s work when I picked up a retrospective book on him at LACMA’s Art Catalogues Bookstore. From his color palette, his subject matter (German history, mythology) manifesting in landscapes/spaces and the residue of objects, textural surfaces, to the cursive text on some of his pieces – Kiefer’s paintings were almost (minus specific subject matter, of course) everything I had been wanting to work towards in my own paintings. It’s a beautiful surprise, but also slightly devastating to be reminded that the work you’ve been wanting/trying to do has already been done and done BETTER. Up until this point, however, I was beginning to unconsciously shut out influences from major figures in art – but Kiefer would become a new easter egg for me to keep my eye out for.
In July, I attended Art of the Archive: The Intersection of Archives and Art by by Jennifer Strayer and Geoff Wexler at the Oregon Historical Society. The presentation included slides of artists whose works drew upon existing archival collections or were interpreted as their own archives, along with blurring the line of what is and is not an archive. One of the artists mentioned was Joseph Beuys and his vitrines – glass display cases holding a variety of items such as animal fat, wax, felt, jars, a painted violin, and beyond. Beuys’s almost-anthropological survey of objects encompassed both the organic and the industrial – human struggle verses healing. I was already slightly familiar with his other works (most famously, his performance installation I Like America, America Likes Me (1974) ) – but I was unfamiliar with his vitrines. But if my Mnemonic Whale had an Opa, it would certainly be them. Thus, I found my second easter egg for wandering museums.
Kiefer was a student of Beuys when he taught at the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie between 1961 and 1972. These artists, who both worked in various mediums, have been continuously linked together because of their timelines, nationality and how their work illuminates Germany’s post-World War II-struggle to reckon with the country’s dark past. It was only fitting to find the work of both Beuys and Kiefer displayed in the same room.
So when my friend Kim took me to the S.A.M for the first time, and I saw Beuys’s Felt Suit (edition of 100) on one side of the wall and a couple of Kiefer’s massive paintings on the other, with Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus (1992) in between – I squealed and hopped up and down. This is something I never do (“squealing” especially). When my sister took me to The Broad in LA a week later, I let out another minor squeal. There they were, a few of Beuys’s vitrines right next to Kiefer’s Deutschlands Geisteshelden (1973). It was settled – my Beuys/Kiefer room radar was activated.
I loved The Broad – my sister and I stumbled upon it during a free admission day. I’m aware that this 2017 blog post about the two very famous male artists who inspire me does a disservice to the many other inspiring talents on display.
My other loves include: Jenny Saville, Jean‐Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Ellen Gallagher (eXelento, 2004), Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Julie Mehretu, Cindy Sherman, Susan Rothenberg, and Kiki Smith.
Seattle Art Museum