Challenged by the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands to create a work in response to Rembrandt’s most famous painting, Night Watch, Anselm Kiefer (perhaps the most famous German artist of the past several decades) produced La Berceuse (for Van Gogh), a huge installation of glass and steel that interprets Rembrandt’s painting through a lens of Van Gogh’s admiration for his predecessor.
The small book (designed by graphic artist Irma Boom) that accompanies the installation is something like an artist’s book, though generated by the museum rather than the artist alone. The images are printed on matte paper, without the high-gloss and precision of coffee-table-printing, and the rough quality of the printing suits Kiefer’s work admirably. There are multiple details of the installation, of the Rembrandt, and of Kiefer’s other work leading up to a single image of the full installation—an image that insists on the inadequacy of the photo (and book) medium to do justice to such a complex work.
Leading us to the text by famed Dutch art historian Rudi Fuchs, printed in German and English. The text is short, informative, and not overly academic. Fuchs points out that Kiefer’s installation “is a dreamt sort of work,” and the book embodies that dream quality as well. We don’t often enough have such small books focusing on complex single works—and books that let the work primarily speak for itself.
Kiefer, Rembrandt, Kiefer
by Rudi Fuchs
36 pages, 24 color plates, $14.95
University of Chicago Press/Hirmer Verlag, 2012