November 23, 2013–March 10, 2014
The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor
This exhibition, the first comprehensive retrospective of Isa Genzken’s (German, b. 1948) epically diverse body of work in an American museum, and the largest to date, encompasses Genzken’s work in all mediums over the past 40 years. Although a New York art audience might be familiar with Genzken’s more recent assemblage sculptures, the breadth of her achievement—which includes not only three-dimensional work but paintings, photographs, collages, drawings, artist’s books, films, and public sculptures—is still largely unknown in this country. Many of the nearly 200 works in the exhibition will be on view in the United States for the first time.
Genzken’s work has been part of the artistic discourse since she began exhibiting in the mid-1970s, but over the last decade a new generation has been inspired by the artist’s radical inventiveness. The past 10 years have been particularly productive for Genzken, who, with a new language of found objects and collage, has created several bodies of work that have redefined assemblage for a new era. These groups of sculptures range from smaller, diorama-like works to room-filling installations.
Although Isa Genzken’s primary focus is sculpture, she uses various media including photography, film, video, works on paper and canvas, collages, and books. Her diverse practice draws on the legacies of Constructivism and Minimalism and often involves a critical, open dialogue with Modernist architecture and contemporary visual and material culture. Using plaster, cement, building samples, photographs, and bric-a-brac, Genzken creates architectonic structures that have been described as contemporary ruins. She further incorporates mirrors and other reflective surfaces to literally draw the viewer into her work. The column is a recurring motif for Genzken, a “pure” architectural trope on which to explore relationships between “high art” and the mass-produced products of popular culture.
In 1980, Genzken and Gerhard Richter were commissioned to design the König-Heinrich-Platz Underground Station in Duisburg; it was only completed in 1992. Between 1986 and 1992, Genzken conceived her series plaster and concrete sculptures to investigate architecture. In 2000, a series of rather roughly patched together architectural models was inscribed with Fuck the Bauhaus. Later, in the series New Buildings for Berlin, which was shown at DOCUMENTA 11, Genzken designed architectural visions of glass high-rises.
The project entitled Der Spiegel 1989-1991 is a series images comprising 121 reproductions of black and white photographs selected and cut from the influential German newsweekly Der Spiegel. Presented in a non-sequential but methodical manner, each image is glued against a piece of white card and individually mounted in a simple frame. Whilst the images themselves remain caption-less, the dates in the series’ titles offer clues about the artist’s intentions. Her paintings of suspended hoops, collectively entitled MLR (More Light Research) (1992), recall gymnastics apparatus caught mid-swing and frozen in time.
One of Genzken’s best known works, Rose (1993/7), is a public sculpture of a single long-stemmed rose made from enameled stainless steel that towers eight metres above Leipzig’s museum district. The artist’s first public artwork in the United States, her replica Rose II (2007) was installed outside the New Museum as part of a year-long rotating installation in November 2010. Genzken has also produced numerous films, including Zwei Frauen im Gefecht, 1974, Chicago Drive, 1992, Meine Großeltern im Bayerischen Wald, 1992, and the video Empire/Vampire, Who Kills Death, 2003.
Since the end of the second half of the 1990s, Genzken has been conceptualizing sculptures and panel paintings in the shape of a bricolage of materials taken from DIY stores and from photographs and newspaper clippings. She often uses materials that underline the temporary character of her works. As part of her deep-set interest in urban space, she also arranges complex, and often disquieting, installations with mannequins, dolls, photographs, and an array of found objects. New Buildings for New York is assembled from found scraps of plastic, metal and pizza-box cardboard. The assemblages from the Empire/Vampire, Who Kills Death series, originally comprising more than twenty sculptures that were created following the attacks of September 11, are combinations of found objects – action figures, plastic vessels, and various elements of consumer detritus – arranged on pedestals in architecturally inspired, post-destruction scenes. Elefant (2006) is a column of cascading vertical blinds festooned with plastic tubes, foil, artificial flowers, fabric and some tiny toy soldiers and Indians. For her installation Oil, the artist transformed the German Pavilion at the 2007 VENICE BIENNALE into a futuristic and morbid Gesamtkunstwerk.
Genzken’s first solo exhibition was held in 1976 at the KONRAD FISCHER GALLERY in Düsseldorf, and her first solo show in the U.S. was mounted by JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK, in 1989. Genzken represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2007. In 2003, she had already participated in the Venice Biennale and, in 2002, DOCUMENTA 11 in Kassel, Germany. She was the subject of a major retrospective in 2009, jointly organized by the Museum Ludwig, Cologne and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. Other solo exhibitions in the past decade include Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2008); the Camden Arts Centre, London (2006); the Photographers’ Gallery, London (2005); the Kunsthalle Zürich (2003); and the Lenbachhaus, Munich (2003). Artist Dan Graham included Genzken’s work in his “Deep Comedy” show at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, in 2008. Her recent shows included collaborative work with Kai Althoff and Wolfgang Tillmans, in whose exhibition space “Between Bridges” she exhibited in 2008. She is the subject of Elizabeth Peyton’s painting Isa (Isa Genzken 1980) (2010). Isa Genzken is represented by David Zwirner, New York; Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; Chantal Crousel, Paris; and Hauser & Wirth, London.
Isa Genzken: Retrospective is co-organized by MoMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and Dallas Museum of Art. The exhibition is organized by Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art (until January 31, 2013), and Laura Hoptman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA; Michael Darling, the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Jeffrey Grove, Senior Curator of Special Projects & Research, Dallas Museum of Art; with Stephanie Weber, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA.
The exhibition is made possible by Céline. Major support is provided by The Modern Women’s Fund, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Lonti Ebers. Additional funding is provided by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.