William Corwin at artcritical:
The day before the opening of the exhibition Kiefer was interviewed at the New York Public Library. Kiefer’s interlocutor, Paul Holdengräber, was able to expertly unpack much of the symbolism that forms a sturdy foundation for the current work. The discussion focused on the immediacy of the work in the life of the artist: Kiefer was brought up in a house in ruins, as it was bombed on the night his mother rushed to the hospital to give birth to him (or so the story goes), so the destructive propensities of history and the devastation in his work is from direct observation and experience. This was heightened in the discussion by Holdengräber’s bold decision to frankly address Kiefer’s “Occupations” series, the artist’s powerful and equivocal assessment of the war. On the humorous side, a slide of the artist dressed as a Cardinal underlined the fact that as a youth he longed to enter the Catholic Church and rise up the ranks of sacred hierarchy but was thwarted by the blunt assertion that no German could be pope. These revelations of juicy subtexts aid immeasurably in the understanding of the work, and even hint at the angle at which Kiefer approaches the erotic.
Unlike Picasso, the sexual imagery of whose late work emerges from his own lascivious fantasies, Kiefer’s vision is predicated on the works of his poet friend Jean-Noël Vuarnet, whose “Extases Féminines” (Paris, 1980) described the experiences of such personages as Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena. (Kiefer’s series of watercolors inspired by Vuarnet is on view.) Kiefer immediately builds a religious and numinous subtext into his eroticism, much as Wagner does with his field of seductive flower girls crossed with Christian iconography in Parsifal, and this accounts for the flowers as well as the Christian symbolism mixed together in the watercolors.