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Isa Genzken

Press release

Isa Genzken

neugerriemschneider is pleased to announce Isa Genzken’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. This show spans four decades, with early works from the 1980s to newer, never-before-shown work. It is an exploration of the artist’s ongoing engagement with architecture and the traditions of Modernism, Minimalism and concepts of authorship through sculpture, collage and photography.

Stapelhaus 2 (1987) is an austere form composed of cast concrete blocks stacked on one another and placed atop a sleek steel structure. This work is an integral part of Genzken’s extensive engagement with concrete forms and her interrogation of the principles of Minimalism. Named after Cologne’s Stapelhaus—a medieval warehouse that served as a symbol of the city’s economic prowess and was redesigned and reconstructed after the second World War—Stapelhaus 2’s vertical divisions and cantilevered horizontal elements lend the concrete composition the presence of an architectural model in delicate balance. Separating the concrete element’s layers are lengthwise splits that appear to be both organically occurring and precisely engineered. Their roughly hewn nature, along with the cracks and pores that texture the sculpture’s partially lacquered surfaces suggest a delicate quality that contrasts starkly with concrete’s structural properties. The sculpture’s simplified steel base elevates the stacked blocks to eye-level and brings notions of scale into question.

Created over thirty years later, Genzken’s Untitled (2018) presented here continues her investigation of the interface between sculpture and architecture. Expanding upon the principle of layered construction established in Stapelhaus 2 and her extensive use of adhesive tape throughout her body of work, this untitled work consists of tape rolls stacked on a painted wooden platform. Opposing the geometrically measured nature of the concrete work, this sculpture’s ring-shaped building blocks are arranged precariously—stacked high, seemingly fallen or extending over the plinth’s edge. Forming a bustling metropolis’ skyline in miniature, the rolls of adhesive tape are color-coded, branded or adorned with a design, and all show varying levels of use. The sides of the pedestal feature photographic prints, mostly of the artist herself, affixed with tape.

Genzken’s photographic work Ohr (1980/2012) is one of a multipart series of ears, first conceived in 1980, enlarged to monumental proportions for display. For the majority of these works, Genzken approached women on the streets of New York and asked to photograph their ears on the spot. The resulting images are tightly cropped portraits that highlight a highly intricate, naturally occurring form—one that serves as a crossover point of sorts, separating inner sensory perception from the outside world. Here, the ear itself constitutes a type of readymade: a usable, everyday object of ambiguous authorship. Emphasized through its enlarged scale, the form takes on its own architecture, with crevasses, folds and recesses that mirror those of the concrete Stapelhaus 2.

Similarly, the wall-mounted collage Untitled (2018) also foregrounds references to the body, perception and the senses. The work’s surface is dominated by swaths of red lacquer punctuated by white paint, on top of which Genzken applies a reproduced study of the human brain by Leonardo da Vinci. Below the painted composition is a photograph showing a copy of ancient Greek sculptor Lysippos’ Eros. The largely grey, white and black color palette of a second Untitled (2018) collage echoes the artist’s engagement with concrete forms, employing as its base the similarly industrial material of untreated aluminum that the artist has revisited throughout her oeuvre. Drips of paint give way to smudges, as rectangular fragments of polystyrene foam and cardboard give the work a three-dimensional quality. The prominent placement of the artist’s signature and the work’s date in both collages furthers the multifaceted navigation of authorship explored throughout the exhibition.

Isa Genzken (b. 1948) works in sculpture, installation, collage, photography, painting, drawing and time-based media, deploying materials and methodologies in inventive ways over the past forty years. From computer- designed abstract wooden sculptures to her early, architecturally derived concrete casts and later assemblages that often combine industrially produced materials with objects ranging from the everyday to the luxurious, Genzken references spheres both public and private while also drawing upon architecture, design, popular culture and consumer-oriented goods.

Coinciding with the presentation at neugerriemschneider, Kunstmuseum Basel will host the comprehensive survey exhibition Isa Genzken. Works 1973 to 1983 from September 5, 2020 to January 24, 2021. Genzken has been the subject of international institutional exhibitions, including those at Kunsthalle Bern (2019); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2016); Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2015); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2015); Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2014); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2009); Secession, Vienna (2006); Lenbachhaus, Munich (2004); Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich (2003); Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2002). Isa Genzken has been featured at the Venice Biennale in 1982, 1993, 2003, 2007 and 2015, and was selected for the German Pavilion in 2007. Her work has also been part of documenta (1982, 1992, 2002) and Skulptur Projekte Münster (1987, 1997, 2007). In 2017, Isa Genzken received the Goslarer Kaiserring and was awarded the Nasher Prize, dedicated to artistic achievement in the field of sculpture, in 2019.

For further press information and imagery, please contact Alexia Timmermans at neugerriemschneider: +49 30 288 77277 or