An epic artist’s book

Anselm Kiefer releases a new publication and series of works reinterpreting the myth of Jason and the Argonauts

A pencil on photograph work by Kiefer from "Die Argonauten", 1990/2010 (Courtesy Anselm Kiefer/Gallery Thaddaeus Ropac/Ivorypress)

MADRID. For the past 20 years, German artist Anselm Kiefer has been developing a project about the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, which is on display for the first time in Madrid. The exhibition, “Anselm Kiefer, Die Argonauten”, opened at Ivorypress Art + Books II this month (until 26 March) and features 27 works of pencil on photographs.

The works have also been published in a book entitled Die Argonauten—the third volume in the LiberArs series of artist's books following publications by Gerhard Richter and Richard Long.

Reinterpreting the tale of Jason's search for the Golden Fleece, in which the protagonist overcomes a series of obstacles, Kiefer's work taps into man's ability to triumph over adversity. The story is a “a myth”, says Kiefer “ that each of us carries inside, even without ever having read anything about it.”

Elena Ochoa Foster, the founding director of Ivorypress describes Kiefer's series as a single work: “These 27 works only deal with one theme—the Argonauts—which is seen from different angles. The Argonauts series is one monumental work on paper, using photography as a medium.”

Ochoa Foster, who first met Kiefer—together with her architect husband Norman Foster—while Kiefer was working in Barjac in the south of France, recounts the moment when the Argonaut series was conceived: “Two years ago, the idea of the Ivorypress artist's books collection was born; I sent Anselm the one done by Gerhard Richter and he became excited and began to think to produce one for the same collection. Once Richard Long's Gravity was published, I sent it to him too, and Anselm was even more enthralled with the idea. So he suggested exploring deeper a series of photographs he began in 1990 as the theme for the book.”

Kiefer's series developed out of what he calls a “trivial and everyday context.” After a meeting with friends and collaborators, her remembers, “the table looked like a battlefield: empty cups, leftovers on plates, crumbs, stains.” This scene inspired him to recreate—through symbolic, ritual and poetic images—the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. According to Kiefer: “Banality is the best starting point for making your own discoveries and I think the insignificant is more meaningful for the observer.”

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