With a career spanning four decades, Isa Genzken's works draw upon everyday material culture, including design, consumer goods, the media, architecture, and urban environments. Widely recognized for her significant, pioneering contribution to sculpture, Genzken's prodigious oeuvre also includes paintings, collages, drawings, films, and photographs, and frequently incorporates seemingly disparate materials and imagery to create characteristically complex, enigmatic works. Drawing loosely on the legacies of Constructivism and Minimalism and often involving a critical, open dialogue with Modernist architecture, her interest lies in the way in which common aesthetic styles come to illustrate and embody contemporary political and social ideologies.
Born in 1948 in Bad Oldesloe, Germany, Genzken studied fine arts, art history, and philosophy in Hamburg, Berlin, and Cologne, before completing her studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1977. Since 2004, her work has been represented by David Zwirner. Previous solo exhibitions were held at the gallery in New York in 2005 and 2007. Marking her third gallery solo show was an exhibition of new and recent works at David Zwirner, New York, on view September 16 through October 31, 2015.
In 2017, Genzken received the Goslarer Kaiserring (or the “Emperor’s Ring”) award from the city of Goslar. An accompanying solo exhibition will be held at Mönchehaus Museum Goslar in Germany, on view October 7, 2017 through January 28, 2018.
In 2016, the artist's recent large-scale sculpture Two Orchids, which was originally shown as part of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, was displayed in New York's Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park (organized by Pubic Art Fund, New York). In 2015, an extensive survey of Genzken's work was presented by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The show traveled to Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin in 2016.
In 2014, Isa Genzken: New Works was presented at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria and subsequently traveled earlier this year to the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt. In 2013, The Museum of Modern Art, New York organized Genzken's first American museum survey, Retrospective, making it the most comprehensive presentation of her work to date, encompassing all media from the past forty years. The show traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Dallas Museum of Art in 2014.
Her work has been the subject of major traveling museum surveys and include those organized by Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2009 (traveled to Museum Ludwig, Cologne); Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany, 2002 (traveled to Kunsthalle Zürich, 2003); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1992 (traveled to Portikus, Frankfurt; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Städtisches Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, both 1993); and Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany, 1988 (traveled to Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, both 1989).
Other venues which have hosted important solo exhibitions include the Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2014); Museion, Bolzano, Italy (2010); Camden Arts Center, London; Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck; Secession, Vienna (all 2006); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2002, organized by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst on the occasion of the artist receiving the Wolfgang Hahn Prize); and Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2000). Her first institutional solo exhibition was held in 1978 at the Kabinett für aktuelle Kunst in Bremerhaven, Germany.
In 2007, the artist represented Germany at the 52nd Venice Biennale. Her work has been prominently featured in international biennials and group exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (2015, 2003, 1993, and 1982); Skulptur Projekte Münster (2007, 1997, and 1987); and Documenta (2002, 1992, and 1982).
Work by the artist is represented in museum and public collections worldwide, including the Dallas Museum of Art; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. Genzken lives and works in Berlin.