Anselm Kiefer at Mass MoCA

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The last of the orange nasturtium blooms killed by the hard frost, a dense white fog shrouding the landscape this morning. Last week, a trip to the Berkshires to see the new Hall Art Collection at MAss MoCA. The day cold, bleak and blustery, late-season leaves still clinging to lower tree limbs, yellow-orange confetti, twirling and swirling in gusts of wind before cascading to the ground.

Housed inside a 10,000-square-foot cement water-tank turned seasonal art gallery, three installations by the artist Anselm Kiefer. A hushed and cavernous space, white metal and gray concrete walls. Large sweeps of white, broken up by sections of black cursive wall text. On the floor as you enter, waves of crumbling and corroding concrete, sheets of lead and exposed rusty rebar, excerpts from a poem scrawled high on the wall. On the other side of an interior dividing wall, two lines of single beds draped in crumpled lead sheeting, hollows cradling stone and plant debris, some with pools of water, names of women scribbled on the wall above the beds. Huge works, designed to crumble and deteriorate in the out-of-doors, now preserved in a museum gallery. In a tall and narrow steel pavilion within the gallery, floor to ceiling paintings, large seascapes of rusty 3-D battleships tossed about on stormy seas, surfaces textured with organic debris. On the way home, a detour through a small companion exhibition at the nearby Williams College Museum of Art, a view into Kiefer’s earlier works. Back home, we streamed the documentary, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a glimpse of the artist at work. Grand-scale works drawn from poetry, literature and history – encompassing cycles of war, naval battle theories, and revolution. Powerful and sobering, the weight of the works heavy on the heart, made lighter by the company of friends. The chill of the day eased by a hot, comfort-food lunch in a cozy restaurant.

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