The Met Breuer is showcasing a series of works from its collection to offer a panoramic on the German artist ouevre. The show serves as an opportunity to reflect on our own nation and the conflicted history we struggle to readdress today.
Born in 1945, in 1969 he photographed himself in his father’s Wehrmacht uniform, posing before historic monuments and Romantic seascapes in Europe with his arm extended in an illegal Nazi salute. Six years later, the artist selected 18 of these images for a photo-essay titled “Occupations,” which met with widespread public outcry. Indeed, while Kiefer’s artistic provocation ran counter to the intense process of postwar denazification, which included the destruction of offensive monuments and other symbols of Germany’s infamous history, it was also a threat to a kind of collective amnesia that had overtaken West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. In his practice the artist reuses old photographs for new projects, extending his artistic means. He added new materials, such as earth, lead, and hay, and approached his works in near-alchemical ways.