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Exhibition presents close to forty models for Isa Genzken's outdoor projects since the 1980s
Isa Genzken, Kunsthalle Bern, 2019, installation view, © 2019, ProLitteris Zurich. Photo: Gunnar Meier.

BERN.- The range and variety of the work of Isa Genzken (born in 1948 in Bad Oldesloe, Schleswig Holstein) continues to surprise. Since the 1970s, the artist has made baffling changes in her work while at the same time developing a consistent oeuvre. Her artistic practice comprises photography, film, painting and works on paper, yet her central interest is in the potential of sculpture, in the sculptural aspects and the architecture of things. How do architecture, design and artworks influence an environment, how do they shape one’s perception of oneself? Questions about the relationship between the individual and the world are what she gives expression to, for instance in the many works that take up the image of the window. Genzken’s works can be small and model-like or, as in the case of works for public spaces, take on monumental dimensions. Sculptures that work in an interior can often be thought of as enlarged in the viewer’s imagination.

Genzken has moved with the times, yet at the same time developed a remarkably independent oeuvre – an approach that has caused her to exert an influence on younger artists that is hard to underestimate. In the 2003 video “Warum ich keine Interviews gebe / Why I don’t give interviews”, the artist Kai Althoff asks Genzken about her stated demand that her work be “modern”. In her beginnings the artist still reflected on modernism and its offshoots, but with respect to her current work the term refers rather to its seeming timelessness.

The exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern focuses on a presentation of close to forty models for her outdoor projects since the 1980s. They are works for public and private outdoor spaces, which in many cases were realized, in others not. They show the sensitivity, precision and sense of poetry and humor with which Isa Genzken responds to urban spaces and architecture in her works and proposals. Yet the models also give rise to narratives about the architectural challenges and hurdles associated with public art, about the battles to be fought and the sensitivities of those who decide about their realization. Moreover, the models reflect how Isa Genzken’s work changes over time and what materials she is interested in at various stages.

In the exhibition, the models are complemented by a selection of related video works, paintings, collages and sculptures. These provide a broader perspective on Isa Genzken’s fascination with urban spaces, their façades, the sculptural qualities of architecture and the architecture-related aspects of sculpture. In the video works in particular we think we witness Genzken as a human being, and perhaps we actually do. Even more, however, these theatrical stagings demonstrate how even the seemingly random and improvised in her work invariably involves the question of the possibilities, the boundaries of art. They are dramas in the classical sense in which the character is never able to speak directly but only in the translation through the form of the mask.

Isa Genzken’s outdoor projects were first exhibited in the form of models in 2015 as the artist’s contribution in the Central Pavilion of the 56th Biennale of Venice and in 2016 in her solo exhibition Modelle für Außenprojekte at the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn.

Isa Genzken was awarded the 2019 Nasher Prize by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. In 2017, she received the Kaiserring (Emperor’s Ring) Art Award of the City of Goslar. Most recently, she had institutional solo exhibitions at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin (2016), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (both 2015), the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main (2015) as well as the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna (both 2014), the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne (both 2009).

Her retrospective was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2013), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2014) and the Dallas Museum of Art (2014–15).

Isa Genzken participated in the Skulptur Projekte in Münster (1987, 1997 and 2007) as well as in documenta 7, 9 and 11 (1982, 1992 und 2002); she represented Germany at the 52nd Biennale of Venice (2017) and participated in the group exhibition of the 56th Biennale of Venice (2015), the 9th Berlin Biennale and the Biennale de Montreal (both 2016).

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