Anselm Kiefer

German (Donaueschingen, Germany, 1945)

Osiris und Isis (Osiris and Isis)

1985-1987
painting | oil and acrylic emulsion with additional three-dimensional media
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  • Osiris und Isis (Osiris and Isis)

    Anselm Kiefer, Osiris und Isis (Osiris and Isis), 1985-1987; oil and acrylic emulsion with additional three-dimensional media, 149 1/2 x 221 x 9 1/2 in. (379.73 x 561.34 x 24.13 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Jean Stein by exchange, the Mrs. Paul L. Wattis Fund, and the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund; © Anselm Kiefer


Though metaphysics and spirituality have always interested Kiefer, it was the processes of memory that most influenced his first three decades of art making. In Osiris und Isis, an ancient Egyptian myth becomes a potent allegory for Germany's struggle with the legacy of World War II.

Osiris, the god of the underworld, was murdered by his jealous brother, Set, who dispersed his body parts across the land. Osiris's grieving widow, Isis, searched for his remains, literally "re-membering" and resurrecting him. The parable's theme of destruction and renewal speaks directly to Kiefer's interest in reassembling and reclaiming elements of Germany's history and identity at a time when so many of his compatriots seemed intent on forgetting.

Kiefer illustrates humanity's quest for heaven through an immense, stepped temple that dominates the scene. A television circuit board connects copper wires and shards of a porcelain plumbing fixture, which, scattered across the vast canvas, allude to Osiris's strewn body parts. By conflating contemporary elements with a mythological story, Kiefer connects the modern and ancient worlds, forging a new, universal image of reunification and synthesis (with scars still intact).


149 1/2 x 221 x 9 1/2 in. (379.73 x 561.34 x 24.13 cm)
Acquired 1987
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Jean Stein by exchange, the Mrs. Paul L. Wattis Fund, and the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund
© Anselm Kiefer
87.34.A-C

Tags

pyramids, tombs, steps, landscapes, wires, dark, mythology


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