neugerriemschneider is pleased to present our sixth solo exhibition with works by Isa Genzken. Featuring representative sculptures from throughout her breakthrough series Empire/Vampire, Who Kills Death, which had its German debut at the gallery, and Flugzeugfenster (both initiated in 2003), this grouping serves as a reflection on our first solo exhibition with the artist ahead of its 20th anniversary.
Working across sculpture, installation, collage, photography, painting, drawing and film, Genzken’s celebrated oeuvre has taken a diversity of forms over the past five decades, continuously evolving in pace with the world that surrounds it. This very environment - one shaped by the fusion of local sensibilities and the drive of an industrial present - has given rise to works that highlight dichotomous, ambivalent and multifaceted existences, simultaneously serving as vehicles for Genzken’s reappraisal of her own artistic tactics. With architecture, design and the apparatus of popular and consumer culture as anchors, she creates modified realities that rely on, and pursuantly deviate from the familiar everyday with affecting concision.
Empire/Vampire, Who Kills Death stands as significant within Genzken’s practice, marking a key waypoint in her creative trajectory. This expansive body of work, a diverse selection of which from throughout the project is on view here, sees the artist turn from engagements with Minimalistic thought to an approach - albeit still tinged by the movement’s aesthetic and theoretical stances - with assemblage at its core. The works of Empire/Vampire each comprise four-sided bases, their simplified or adorned forms balancing or hinting at what lies above. Flattened planes serve as expanded ground upon which scenes of dystopia play out, with toy soldiers, model foliage, sheets of transparent plastic film, disco-ball fragments or dishware gathered around or becoming central elements and frozen in place under bursts of spray paint or drips of acrylic. Raised slightly above eye level for many, these individual results of mass production and consumption are composed into cohesive dioramic tableaux: film sets in miniature, the complexity and precision of which cast Genzken as their veritable director. While deriving narrative internally as self-contained, altar-like microcosms, they additionally act serially, entering into dialogue with one another.
Genzken’s Flugzeugfenster, based on excerpted windows from the cabins of airliners, surround her standing sculptures. They find precedent not only in the storied art-historical tradition of the window view, but also in her extensive employ of the motif spanning medium and era, with the works shown playing a crucial role in this exploration. Covered in applications of sprayed-on or running paint, the curved contours of airplanes’ walls house shades pulled down to varying extents like pairs of lidded eyes. The glassed-over portholes that they partially conceal are nearly negated, rendered largely unusable. Glimpses that are afforded lead only to the white walls that lie behind, rethinking the bird’s-eye spectacle of flight and the transformative nature of travel. Hung from supports, the works appear to float while remaining firmly situated in their spatial and conceptual context, redirecting attention to the presentation’s Empire/Vampire sculptures - themselves scenes scaled-down as if sighted from high above.
Isa Genzken (b. 1948) is the subject of a wide-ranging survey presentation at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin showcasing 75 works from throughout her career (July 13 to November 27, 2023). International institutional exhibitions of her work include those at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, K21, Düsseldorf (2021); Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel (2020); Kunsthalle Bern, Bern (2019); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2016); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2015); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2015); Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2014); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2009); Secession, Vienna (2006); Lenbachhaus, Munich (2004); Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich (2003) and Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2002). Isa Genzken has been featured at the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 2003, 2015), and was selected for the German Pavilion in 2007. Her work has been shown in documenta (1982, 1992, 2002) and Skulptur Projekte Münster (1987, 1997, 2007), among others.