Isa Genzken was in her late 20s when she visited Michael Asher in California on a travel grant from Dusseldorf Academy, where she had begun teaching in 1977. At this time, Genzken was producing sleek lacquered wood sculptures known as ‘Ellipsoids’ and ‘Hyperbolos.’ This minimalist body of work, which lasted through the early 1980s, engaged with spatial and social aspects of line, mass, scale, color and movement through and around the works.
Since their meeting, Genzken’s diverse practice has encompassed sculpture, photography, 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.
In 1977, Michael Asher delivered small caravan trailer to the first Skulptur Projekte Münster. He had created sculpture out of experience, setting in motion his career-long project of ‘dislocation.’ In the years that followed, Asher’s interventions in galleries and museums included removing walls and doors, or keeping a museum open 24 hours a day. These deceptively simple architectural actions sought to expose the structural ‘givens’ of visual display and disrupt any sense of neutrality promised by galleries. Over a forty-year period, Genzken’s practice and Asher’s aligned in surprisingly fluid ways, despite the visual dissonance of their output. Both mined the formal tenets of sculpture, for example the base, or support structure – whether a plinth or a rolling cart for Genzken, for Asher a wall, window or even an entire city. Both artists present us with alternative (and often discomforting) environments and the critical tools to navigate contradictions around us.
In addition to her interior installation of all new works, this exhibition features in the Courtyard of the gallery, ‘Rose III,’ an 8-meter tall sculpture, modeled after an actual flower Genzken chose and sent to the foundry. The flower simultaneously defies and underscores the fragility and beauty commonly associated with the image of the rose.
Moreover, the towering sculpture brings to the fore ideas about the integration of architecture, nature, and mass culture. Genzken is focused less on the flower’s symbolism than the possibility of conveying a certain shine and shape, even resembling the mass-produced fake flowers found in dollar-stores. An interest in materiality, the bastardized legacy of modernism, and the relationship between the individual and the world is evoked in this exquisite sculpture, delivered with the artist’s unmistakable playful sense of humor.