Isa Genzken

Galerie Daniel Buchholz

Isa Genzken works with forms and materials that could make her whole project seem like a gag or an exercise in absurdity. Other artists also walk this line (Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and even Rosemarie Trockel), but Genzken has the courage to take this risk while maintaining a sovereignty that is actually more absurd than the work itself. Thus there is a veil of tragedy over these otherwise happy sculptures. One could accuse them of being too indulgent; they have a patina that belies their age, a kind of Modernist design-value effect. This results in a dimension of confusion that develops when a visual innovation is not supported programmatically, making these works dance very close to the edge of gimmickry.

Powering half the works with motors added to the sense that these works are mere gadgets. Two pieces placed together, and two placed opposite each other suggested a sort of choreography of the space. But they also seemed imbued with the staleness of kinetic art, permeated by the crazy discoveries of the not yet post-Modern.

The works here emphasized expressive gesture (in contrast to her more conceptual works or works that can be seen formally as Conceptual), recalling her plaster pieces as well as her broken cement ones, such as the fountains. In one work, Genzken reconstructed the window at the back of the gallery, a kind of formalist joke since the “glass” of the reconstructed model was made of epoxy resin.

If the two columns, the two hoods, and the two heads in aspic, two plaster busts placed in colored epoxy resin, function as guards, then the tragic and difficult question of how to reintroduce the human figure is raised. This sculptural “family” reads like an answer to Charles Ray’s monstrous post-nuclear family. Genzken’s works are, however, less sci-fi and more the psychogram of a family where all references to functionality have already vanished. All the larger-than-life figures—both the columns that reference the entire body and the busts that point to a head/body relationship—were made through a process of casting that allowed for inner coloration, giving them a decorative quality, but also the feeling that the skin had been peeled back to reveal what lay beneath it. Powered by motors, they turn silently and slowly. Although upright, they are not monolithic; rather, despite their height, they seem like objects close to the earth. A little monstrous, they are like existential statements hidden behind a very sober method of working both with effect and fashion.

Jutta Koether

Translated front the German by Charles V. Miller.