Isa Genzken is arguably one of the most influential female artists of the past few decades, her impact visible in the work of young sculpture and assemblage artists worldwide. MoMA’s upcoming exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective is the first comprehensive survey of her career in the United States, and the largest exhibition of her work to date. The accompanying catalogue explores her unique and decidedly diverse career through illustrated-plate sections and essays spanning a more than 40-year period. Genzken’s artwork is markedly varied and the narrative of her career is unconventional. She’s worked in nearly every imaginable medium, including sculpture, photography, film, assemblage and collage. The catalogue’s essays offer new insights on her aesthetic outlook and approach.
Curator Sabine Breitwieser’s essay covers Genzken’s artistic output from 1970 to 1996, discussing her early geometric drawings and sculptures, and her presence in the art centers of West Germany as a student at the Düsseldorf Academy and in Cologne. In the 1990s, Genzken moved away from post-Minimalism and began to make her first collage works.
Laura Hoptman, curator in MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture, explores this career break and later parts of Genzken’s career—from 1993 to the present—when her collage and sculptural assemblages and installations grew in scale and conceptual complexity.
The book also includes focused thematic essays. Scholar Lisa Lee writes on Genzken’s relationship with architecture and public sculpture in “Isa Genzken: Model Citizen,” considering her experiments with scale, perception and even mutiny, with projects like Fuck the Bauhaus. In “Isa Genzken: Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth),” Michael Darling argues for a thematic consistency in Genzken’s variegated oeuvre, positing that she “has married radical formal experimentation and variety to themes that are timeless, poignant and deeply humanistic, rooting her inquiries in the material facts of our world but offering pathways to topics, experiences, and concepts that, by definition, escape the grasp of easy resolution.” Jeffrey Grove’s essay, “Isa Genzken’s Homage to Herself” discusses motifs of autobiography and self-representation in her work, particularly in photography and film. An illustrated chronology by Stephanie Weber, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Media & Performance Art at MoMA guides readers through the exciting trajectory of Genzken’s career, from birth to her first American retrospective at MoMA.
Isa Genzken: Retrospective is on view from November 23, 2013–March 10, 2014 in the The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery on the Museum’s sixth floor. A preview of the catalogue can be downloaded here.