Anselm Kiefer’s vast, bleak vision requires the scale of architecture or opera; the German artist’s gigantism indulges not a sense of his own importance but the obsessions of his vision. These obsessions range from cataclysmic destruction and natural rejuvenation to spiritual transcendence, as manifested in plant life, the Latin Mass, the Holocaust, poetry and memory, among other things. Kiefer first came to international attention as the fabricator of immense earth- and metal-encrusted books, and he’s returned to this imposing but endearing format. A second exhibition, on the theme of Palm Sunday, installed (appropriately enough) in the weathered gymnasium of a church, couples another wall of gnarled, scrawled, melted surfaces with a whole uprooted palm tree lying on its side. Both shows provide extensive printed annotation unpacking the myriad references Kiefer has crammed into his installations and slathered onto his surfaces. Gagosian, 456 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; thru April 26. And at First Baptist Church, 760 S. Westmoreland Ave., L.A.; Wed.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.; thru April 27. (310) 271-9400.
In their rough-hewn muckiness, Kiefer’s epic descriptions of cataclysm and rebirth are a universe away from Mungo Thomson’s cool, video-game-slick contemplation of the end of the world. Furthermore, Thomson has derived his end-time narrative from comic books rather than holy books, in fact compiling his own zine (Einstein #1) out of quotations from others. But by sewing together found images of outer-space creatures and world-destroying asteroids into a depiction of Earth’s demise, Thomson also embraces and gives voice to our fear and awe, and reasserts human defiance through the jagged poetics of contemporary comic-strip art. If Kiefer finds revelation in supposedly humble materials, Thomson finds it in supposedly trivial media. Margo Leavin, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; thru April 26. (310) 273-0603.