David Zwirner presents new and recent work by Isa Genzken, on view at the gallery’s 533 West 19th Street location. This exhibition, the artist’s fourth with the gallery, showcases the diversity of her practice and include a selection of new concrete sculptures, wall-mounted paintings and assemblages, and iterations of her ongoing Schauspieler (Actors) series.
With a career spanning over four decades, Genzken has incessantly probed the shifting boundaries between art, design, architecture, media, technology, and the individual. Her prodigious oeuvre frequently incorporates seemingly disparate materials and imagery to create complex, enigmatic works that range in medium, including sculpture, painting, collage, drawing, film, and photography. Deeply attuned to both the legacies of the twentieth-century avant-garde and the materials and forms of twenty-first-century global society, Genzken’s work interrogates the impact of our increasingly commodified and interconnected culture on our everyday lives.
The exhibition takes its name from a sketch for an unproduced screenplay written by the artist in the mid-1990s, “Sky (Fragments for a movie).” Concerned with a dark secret hidden within a suburban home, the text underlines several themes that run through the works on view, such as the tension between public and private, and the deceptive nature of surfaces and facades.
Having begun working with concrete in the mid-1980s, here Genzken revisits some of her most recognizable forms, including her Paravents (Screens) and Lautsprecher (Loudspeakers). In these sculptures, the artist employs the rough-hewn surfaces of concrete to create works that appear at once heavy and light, modern and decrepit. These forms simultaneously point toward and confound notions of receptivity, communication, and openness that the artist has explored throughout her career.
The exhibition will feature new examples of Genzken’s “towers,” products of her decades-long fascination with skyscrapers and New York City’s skyline in particular. At once makeshift and monumental, these architectonic forms consist of vertical structures of medium-density fiberboard adorned with mirror foil and spray paint, which, as in her concrete works, complicate the distinctions between interior and exterior space.
Also on view will be iterations of the artist’s ongoing Schauspieler (Actors) series. First presented in her 2013 retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, these works consist of elaborately outfitted mannequins holding an array of props and accessories. Styled by the artist somewhere between high-fashion models and post-apocalyptic survivors, these figures represent Genzken’s most explicit engagement with the human form, confronting viewers with a distorted reflection of the world around them.
In addition, the exhibition will include a range of assemblages of tape, foil, spray paint, and photographs on aluminum and plaster panels, many of which feature images (including an X-ray) of the artist and her work. Genzken will also debut new hybrid forms that combine her Schauspieler figures with these wall-mounted panels, erasing the distinction between two- and three-dimensional works.
Born in 1948 in Bad Oldesloe, Germany, Isa Genzken studied fine arts, art history, and philosophy in Hamburg, Berlin, and Cologne, before completing her studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1977. Her first institutional solo exhibition was held in 1978 at the Kabinett für aktuelle Kunst in Bremerhaven, Germany.
Genzken’s work has been the subject of many major museum exhibitions, including traveling surveys organized by the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany (1988; traveled to Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, both 1989); The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (1992; traveled to Portikus, Frankfurt; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Städtisches Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, all 1993); Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany (2002; traveled to Kunsthalle Zürich, 2003); and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2009; traveled to Museum Ludwig, Cologne). Other venues which have hosted important solo exhibitions include the Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2000); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2002; organized by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst on the occasion of the artist receiving the Wolfgang Hahn Prize); Camden Arts Centre, London; Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck; Secession, Vienna (all 2006); and Museion, Bolzano, Italy (2010).
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. Also in 2014, Isa Genzken: New Works was presented at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, and subsequently traveled to the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt. 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 2017, Genzken received the Goslarer Kaiserring (or the “Emperor’s Ring”) award from the city of Goslar, Germany. An accompanying solo exhibition was on view at the Mönchehaus Museum Goslar from October 7, 2017 through January 28, 2018.
Her work has been prominently featured in international biennials and group exhibitions such as documenta (1982, 1992, and 2002); Skulptur Projekte Münster (1987, 1997, and 2007); and the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 2003, 2007, and 2015), where she represented Germany in 2007.
Since 2004, her work has been represented by David Zwirner. Previous solo exhibitions were held at the gallery in New York in 2005, 2007, and 2015.
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, DC; 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.