Posts Tagged ‘neo-expressionism’


Famous, 1982 by Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Cleveland Museum of Art.



The Garden by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith at the Akron Art Museum is mesmerizing image that draws me in every time I visit the painting.


Kevin Casto, Lowering Jesus from the Cross, 1995, Acrylic on canvas

I have recently been thinking about two paintings I completed back in 1995 for a church I was attending.  They requested a couple of large images dealing with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I was just beginning to establish myself with the Neo-Expressionist ideas of painting and decided to try a couple of large images.  The images did not go over very well in a conservative mid-western community in north central Ohio, but they were not disdained.  I will also add as I review the images…not my best work, yet the project helped me move in the right direction with my painting.  I really do not like the supporting figures who are lowering Christ from the cross.  They don’t seem to fit and seem awkward.  I guess I would feel awkward trying to attempt what they were doing…burying a beloved friend.

Kevin Casto, Lowering Jesus from the Cross, 1995, Acrylic on canvas, (Detail#1)

I have included some close-up detail images of the painting that I really like.  I believe that parts are working…just not the whole image.

Kevin Casto, Lowering Jesus from the Cross, 1995, Acrylic on canvas, (Detail#2)

I have had this painting unstretched,rolled and stored in my barn for about five years.  You can see the lines and wrinkles in the canvas. I think detail 1 & 2 work really well; number 3 and the whole need some refinement and future revision.

Kevin Casto, Lowering Jesus from the Cross, 1995, Acrylic on canvas, (Detail#3)

As I have been reviewing the image, I believe this will become a future revision.  It’s interesting to look back and see how one’s artistic development slowly progresses over the years.  I have read an account of the lowering of the body of Christ, and since Joseph of Arimathea requested the body, I’m sure he was a part of this undertaking as well as maybe the Roman Centurion?  Food for thought.

Kevin Casto, The empty tomb, 1995, Acrylic on canvas

The final image is a landscape of the empty tomb. I feel this image works the best of the two. It’s interesting to see the influence of van Gogh in the way I have attempted to use the line.  It was a good exercise to hang these in the gallery while it has been empty.  I hope to hang them in the lower studio space in the future so I can begin some revision on both pieces.  The images helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus and of the astounding miracle of the resurrection.  I have to agree with the book of John that states: God so loved the world (inclusive) that he gave his one and only son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  I hope you enjoy my musings on my early expressions in painting.

To the Unknown Painter, 1983
The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

German artist Anselm Kiefer is a contemporary German artist who was born March 8, 1945 shortly before the end of World War II.  Kiefer’s work explores the themes of destruction and rebirth.  I have been intrigued by his work since my first introduction to Kiefer in the early 1980’s at the Carnegie Museum of Art while I was a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Kiefer describes his own artistic process as stimulated by Beuys’s philosophies: “Painting, for me, is not just about creating an illusion. I don’t paint to present an image of something. I paint only when I have received an apparition, a shock, when I want to ‘transform’ something. Something that possesses me, and from which I have to deliver myself.  Something I need to transform, to metabolize, and which gives me a reason to paint” (Mass, 2009).

Anselm Kiefer (German, 1945-)
Lot’s Wife, 1989, The Cleveland Museum of Art

web site

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Web site states that the painting Lot’s Wife, from 1989, is a major example of Kiefer’s work. The complex allusions contained in Kiefer’s work are often indecipherably private and incorporate a vast range of symbolism, including pagan and Christian mythology, history, and cultural references. A controversial subject in his work has been the struggle for a personal, public resolution of his country’s participation in the Holocaust. For Kiefer, the railroad tracks are symbols of the transportation of Jews to the concentration camps. Another essential theme is the destructive, transformative powers of fire, with its intense heat. For the artist, transformation of the land is a metaphor for human suffering.  The painting’s title refers to the biblical story of Lot’s wife who, was turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the warning not to look back at God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Kiefer handles the story from the book of Genesis metaphorically, using the salt-encrusted panel and altered canvas to suggest the story’s cataclysmic ending. 

The Expressionist View

I have been moved, influenced, overwhelmed and visually driven by the art of Anselm Kiefer.  I have chosen these two images to briefly discuss because I have personally seem them several times.  I first encountered the art of Kiefer as a student in Pittsburgh in one of my many excursions to the Carnegie Museum.  The largest of his work overwhelms and draws the viewer into his images.

Libby Starrenburg states in her online art journal that Kiefer maintains a strong link to his mentor Beuys – in that he shares a genuine and abiding interest the ‘natural’ – both in natural objects and natures processes.  Starrenburgh research has found an interesting phrase repeated in the work of Kiefer “…and the grass will cover your cities ” – which could read as apocalyptic, or as referencing the enduring and perpetually reforming essence of life. This is where Kiefers art practice resides; in the messy middle-space, the sites of convergence and contradiction, creating spaces of and for multiple meanings and cross-reference (Starrenburg,

I have seen Kiefer’s work in Cleveland and in 1988 in Toledo at the exhibit Refigured Painting: German Image 1960-88.  Which was an exhibit that changed my focus in Art to expressionism.

I am happy to say that I bought this book at the exhibit in 1988.  The Neo-Expressionist show helped me to focus on what I want to show in my images, which is how images affect us emotionally. Not realistically.  I believe that Keifer’s images draw me in because of size, emotion, line and content of the story they are expressing.  We all have stories we are living out and expressing in small ways. Yet in Keifer’s largest images he draws us into his work through story and expression both visually, and tactilely.  Line is incorporated to guide the viewer through his images.  David Cohen expresses in “The Irony and the Ecstacy” – a critique of the 2009 Gagosian Gallery exhibition of Kiefers works that  “It is easy for artist and viewer alike simply to wallow in all this gorgeous texture. These earthy, charred, rusting swamps of primordial chaos are a kind of post-apocalyptic lily pond. ”

Anselm Kiefer

The haunting quality of much of his work leaves me longing for redemption and questioning why humanity believes that we can save ourselves.  Kiefer’s work lives out the romantic cry of Robert Schumann “The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart.”