Opening on Thursday, February 10th, 2005, David Zwirner will present an exhibition by renowned German artist Isa Genzken, who lives and works in Berlin. Genzken's work is included in the 54th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA, which is on view through March 20, 2005. In 2002, her work was included in Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany. Her recent solo exhibitions include Wasserspeier and Angels at Hauser & Wirth, London. One of the most revered sculptors in Europe, this is the artist's first New York exhibition in several years and consists of entirely new works.
Isa Genzken's diverse oeuvre includes sculpture, collage, film and photography. Beginning with her painted wood sculptures and concrete and steel works of the 80s and 90s, Genzken has consistently subverted the art-historical model without relying on postmodern tropes. Even the earliest works retain a constructivist logic, successfully juxtaposed with Genzken's fearless choices and combinations of materials. This exhibition includes work from three important groups: assemblages, glass sculptures, and low-relief wall works.
A continuation of her work in the Carnegie International, which Genzken began shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the assemblages from the Empire/Vampire, Who Kills Death series are combinations of found objects–action figures, plastic vessels, and various elements of consumer detritus–arranged on pedestals in architecturally inspired, postdestruction scenes. The works propose a careful balance between traditional presentation (the pedestal as support for an art object) and the relationship between high and low. A new development since the work she made for the Carnegie International involves treatment of the pedestals with semi-transparent fluorescent plastic, dripping paint, and colored tape. In Eber (2004), a synthetic boar’s head, spray-painted pinecones, and a pair of binoculars combine in a postapocalyptic conglomeration held together by lacquer. Though the initial read suggests mere neglect or abandonment, our emotional reactions to destructive events permeates these works. Two assemblages are encased in glass vitrines and illuminated from the interior, reinforcing Genzken's notion of the public and political relic and paying backhanded homage to traditional modes of viewing and presenting works of art.
New Buildings, a series of sculptures in glass, wood, and silicone, are semi-transparent, revealing their interior structures. As stand-ins for the human form and for architecture (or as metaphors for the relationship between the two), these tall, thin structures are similar in form to the epoxy resin works exhibited in Documenta 11 in 2002. Continuing a dialog begun in the early concrete and steel works for which she is perhaps best known, these works extend the minimalist notion of the rectangle as all-inclusive–pedestal, sculpture, figure, and mass–yet they do so within a tactile exterior. In Genzken's sculptures, this interior/exterior dichotomy is deftly resolved.
Premiering in this exhibition is a new group of low-relief wall works that function as a formal link between the two bodies of sculpture, incorporating the geometry and reflective surfaces of the glass pieces (in taped stripes and metal airplane windows) and the spontaneous grouping of materials that is the aesthetic basis for the assemblages. Genzken's crossdisciplinary skill provides a glimpse into her studio practice, thus underscoring the importance of the space surrounding sculpture as it relates back to and is dependent on the human figure.