On view at Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz
this winter is a curated presentation of works by the celebrated German conceptual artist Isa Genzken, titled Inside and Out. Bringing together the artists early exposed concrete sculptures, social facades and later wall works, the exhibition highlights Genzkens career-long interest in modernist architecture, in particular, its structural characteristics and social relevance. The works on display give visual form to central questions in the artists oeuvre that deal with the relationship between sculpture and space, location and perception and examining the window or wall as a social and architectural connection between interior and exterior. Since the 1970s, Genzkens diverse practice has encompassed sculpture, photography, installation, film, drawing and painting. Her work borrows from the aesthetics of minimalism, punk culture and assemblage art to confront the conditions of human experience in contemporary society and the uneasy social climate of capitalism.
Between 1986 and 1991, Genzken produced multiple series of free-standing concrete sculptures on high steel pedestals, resembling architectural maquettes, that are named after the kinds of buildings or structures they represent. Genzkens early exposed concrete sculptures, such as Saal (Room) (1989) evidence how she laid bare the core elements of modern architecture. Oscillating between construction and destruction, these works seem less like casts of existing building parts but, rather, fragments of autonomous structures created using architectural techniques. Emphasizing the rawness that characterizes concrete, Genzken revealed the inherent rough beauty of the material, thus contradicting the machine aesthetics of minimalism. In a later work, Untitled (2017), the artist presents two eye- level concrete sculptures resembling loudspeakers on furniture dollies, removing the materials sense of weight.
With Genzkens Social Facades (Soziale Fassaden), the artist examines the relationship between inside and out. Creating impressions of high-rise facades by means of metal foil and adhesive tape, Genzken brings the skyline down to our level, enabling direct interaction with the aesthetics of a fluctuating urban fabric. The Social Facades are once again referencing modernist architecture, where windows particularly, glass facades were introduced as central design elements in skyscrapers to connect the interior with the exterior view. Incorporating various mirroring foils in Untitled (2017), Genzken not only highlights the formal qualities of the facades but also the reflective properties of the material they were made of.
Additional wall-works on view demonstrate how Genzken has, in recent years, allowed more and more traces of her own life into her works. Inserting autobiographical encodings, such as her self-portrait, into her works has nothing to do with expressionist notions of authorship; instead, it underlines the continued social and personal element of Genzkens work. In Untitled (2017), her visage is captured in an informal snapshot, placed in the middle of what looks like her studio, and collaged into a grid of tape and foil. Combining autobiographical archival material with various reflective mirror foils, Untitled (2015) revisits the idea of the facade as a social construct in relation to her identity and presence as an artist. Collaged and inserted among the materials and sculptural vocabulary that have typically defined her practice in recent years, these autobiographical images and their inclusion seem to mark an accelerated interest, on Genzkens part, in positioning, quite literally, her body, image and, indeed, herself into her work. Yes, Im also a social person, after all, Genzken notes. You see that in my work, too, in which the viewer can, again and again, see his mirror image. The works in Inside and Out alter our own perception of what and how we see, allowing us to reflect on the space surrounding both the artwork and ourselves.
Born in Bad Oldesloe, Germany, Isa Genzken studied at the renowned Kunstakademie Düsseldorf whose faculty at the time included Joseph Beuys, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh and Gerhard Richter. Genzken is best known for her sculptures, gaining acclaim for her minimalist oriented Hyperbolos and Ellipsoids in the late 70s and architecturally-inflected works such as her epoxy resin windows and skyscraper Columns from the 90s. While Genzkens practice is highly diverse, she has continually challenged the viewers self-awareness by means of physically altering their perceptions, bringing bodies together in space and integrating elements of mixed media into sculpture.
Genzkens work has been exhibited in international institutional shows. She was awarded the Nasher Prize for sculpture in September 2018 and the prestigious Goslarer Kaiserring (or Emperors Ring) by the city of Goslar, Germany in 2017. Genzken was selected for Documenta in 1982, 1992 and 2002 and for Skulptur Projekte Münster 1987, 1997 and 2007. In 2007, Genzken was chosen to represent her country in the 52nd Venice Biennale and had her first major retrospective in 2009, Isa Genzken: Open Sesame!, which opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England (2009) and travelled to Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany (2009). Major solo exhibitions include: Isa Genzken. Mach dich hübsch! at The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2015) and Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (2016); and the travelling exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective at MoMA Museum of Modern Art, New York NY (2013), The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago IL (2014); The Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas TX (2014) and the exhibition Isa Genzken. Werke 19731983 at Kunstmuseum Basel (2020), which traveled to K21 Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen in 2021.