Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom
White Cube Until Aug 25
The relentless weight of history, a continuous and consistent theme in the work of Anselm Kiefer, is placed yet again at centre-stage in Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom, the renowned German artist’s first solo exhibition in China. Occupying White Cube Hong Kong’s two-floor gallery space is a new collection of work: a related sequence of colossal paintings over photographs and two lead and steel sculptures of bicycles crushed by books – volumes which presumably speak about time and its sad, gravity-like effect on humanity.
Kiefer, in his earnestness and tendency towards bombastic showmanship, can often steer his work straight into the territory of kitsch. This is evident from the several paintings on view, including the numerous works similarly titled Laßt tausend Blumen blühen, that depict renditions of Chairman Mao presiding over barren, bombed-out Kieferesque landscapes. The various poses of Mao seen here are not based on his likeness but on tributary statues found throughout China. Viewed in this light, this statement on authoritative idolatry being a repressive evil feels heavy-handed.
Yet when Kiefer paints an empty landscape, in works such as Le dormeur du val and Der lange Marsch, their immense scale and ravishing texture are painted with such utter abandon and unwavering faith in the act of painting itself that they approximate the sublime transcendence the Old Masters strove for in their narratives of holy redemption. The two sculptures of bicycles, both titled Diamat – one upright, another lying on a plaster bed – further reflect the artist’s penchant for the obvious statement but are rendered in such a way that they possess a tragicomic pathos of their own. Ultimately, the exhibition is a representative selection from a monumental artist.