Fire on the Earth

Anselm Kiefer and the Postmodern World

John C. Gilmour
Book Cover

PB: $30.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-962-9
Publication: Mar 92

HC: $49.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-690-1
Publication: Jun 90

272 pages

32 duotones, 11 color illustrations

A philosophical case study of Kiefer's work


Born in 1945, the German painter Anselm Kiefer "represents the concerns and insecurities of postwar European intellectuals, confronted by a questionable past and a future so threatening that it tends to create despair." In this philosophical case study of Kiefer’s work, John C. Gilmour addresses a crisis that is common to twentieth-century art and aesthetic theory: the loss of confidence in the ideals and world view inherited from the Enlightenment. Modernism’s historical moment has passed, he claims, and Kiefer’s art—which was the subject of a recent national exhibition—reveals the contours of an emerging postmodern vision.

Considering the writings of Jameson, Foucault, Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Nietzsche, among others, Gilmour shows how Kiefer’s use of literary, mythological, and other cultural texts parallels the intertextual approach common among postmodern theorists. At the same time, the artist’s cosmological questioning adds a dimension lacking among many of postmodernism’s leading proponents. The author interprets Kiefer’s art as a site where distinctions between modern and postmodern senses of representation, history, cosmology, and nature become thematic. He addresses individual paintings—the book includes forty-four illustrations—and gives the historical, biographical, art-critical, and philosophical setting for each piece.


"This is a careful, clearly written study of topics that are often discussed by others in obscure jargon. The work is obviously informed both by a deep, extensive knowledge of Kiefer's painting and by a comprehensive understanding of postmodern thought and culture. Gilmour easily moves back and forth between sensitive descriptions of the meaning, textures, and symbolic associations of the artworks and lucid discussions of theories of contemporary art and culture." —Gary Shapiro, University of Kansas

Table of Contents


Part I: Representation and Simulation in Postmodern Art
1. Windows, Mirrors, and Grids
2. The Crisis of Modernity: Reality and Hyperreality
3. Original Representation: Theatre of Cruelty Painting

Part II: The Artist's Texts and Cultural Dissemination
4. The Death of the Subject and the Birth of the Text
5. Narrative Knowledge and Cultural Memory
6. Cosmological and Mythical Narratives

Part III: Humanity in the Postmodern Moment
7. Technology and Historical Progress in the Postmodern Moment
8. The Postmodern Habitat


About the Author(s)

John C. Gilmour is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the B.A. in Fine Arts Program at Alfred University.


In the Series

  • The Arts and Their Philosophies edited by Joseph Margolis

    The volumes in The Arts and Their Philosophies, edited by Joseph Margolis, include: overviews of such well-defined sub-disciplines as the philosophy of music, film, and literature; studies of important figures, schools, and movements; monographs on such topics as postmodernism, texts and interpretation, reference in fiction, and the methodology of art history; explorations of the intersection of the arts and other disciplines, such as feminism and interpretation, art and politics; and translations of major works.