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Isa Genzken: Balancing Beauty and Brutality
by Eva Heisler


Mannequins in thrift-store finery, backsides blackened with spray paint, are propped in an overturned warehouse trolley. Another mannequin lies on its back, hands in plastic mitts, neck strangled with a cheap tie, and face smothered by an overturned vase strapped in place with gingham ribbons. Throwaway objects and urban debris sprawl across seven trolleys in Isa Genzken’s installation Street Finds (2009), but visual cacophony is not the artist’s only mode of expression. Works from the mid-1980s, including Loudspeaker (1986), two concrete blocks with openings, like portholes, where the speakers should be, and World Receivers (1987), concrete radios with real antennas sticking out of mute gray blocks, demonstrate the stubborn materiality of Genzken’s earlier work. Both trashy ephemera and discrete objects featured in her recent retrospective “Isa Genzken: Open Sesame!,” a collaboration between London’s Whitechapel Gallery and Cologne’s Museum Ludwig that transmitted the irreverent energies of a 30-year career, which, despite its use of many mediums—including collage, painting, and photography—has been resolutely sculptural in its preoccupations. A similar range of work, exploring the reality of contemporary life through physical relationships, is currently on view at the Museion, Bolzano’s museum of modern and contemporary art, through January 11, 2011.

Untitled, 2006.
Sofa, goatskin, foam, plastic foil, mirror foil, plastic, fabric, lacquer, and 2 knives, 107 x 35 x 39 in.

Photo: Courtesy David Zwirner, NY

 


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