This presentation will be the first one-person United States museum exhibition of West German artist Isa Genzken. Genzken’s oeuvre thus far consists of two aesthetically contrasting but philosophically complimentary extremes: highly crafted, sleek, and colorful wooden objects reminiscent of kayaks or rockets, some over thirty feet in length; and disturbingly blunt, numbing, concrete sculptures reminiscent of bombed out shelters.
Genzken’s earlier wood sculptures at once seem both powerful and fragile. While their forms incorporate the ruthless aesthetics of progress—speed, efficiency, cleanliness, and perfection— these virtues are countered by the fragile form and balance that such extreme pursuits require. Genzken’s committment to such absolute virtues in this work borders on the absurd, to the point that beauty becomes so shrill as to threaten shattering their tense and polished states.
Her more recent concrete sculptures are much less refined, and at first suggest the sort of brutally reductive and inhuman architecture generally associated with failed modernism. These sculptures feature various openings, interiors, and corridors vaguely suggestive of crude, mass-produced housing. The sculptures are made so bluntly though—concrete layers poured one upon the other so that each new slab crudely balances and “mends” the former’s imperfections—that their structural dependence on gravity becomes equally graceless and staggering. All of Genzken’s sculptures share the same core inspiration: the impossibility of attaining any absolute, universal, or otherwise perfect notion of beauty, efficiency, or progress. The wood sculptures embody the idealism of the endeavor, the concrete sculptures the realities with which we live.
This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Portikus, Frankurt, Germany.