Isa Genzken

Galerie Daniel Buchholz

Although Isa Genzken’s recent exhibition was dominated by the five wooden towers displayed in the gallery’s main space, the show also included three books of collages, and a wall assemblage made of crushed household appliances. That these efforts represent a fundamental departure in the artist’s oeuvre becomes clear when they are compared to such earlier series as the “Epoxidharz,” 1992 (translucent sculptures made from epoxy), and “The Hat and Lamp Sculptures,” 1992–96 (objects that turn slowly on their axes with the aid of a small motor), sets of pieces that were all fabricated according to Genzken’s specifications. The new works, each of which in some way involves collage or assemblage, are subtly detailed constructions that show obvious traces of the artist’s hand.

The books, which are collectively entitled I Love New York—Crazy City, 1995–96, and which Genzken made during several stays in Gotham, incorporate color photocopies of a range of items: bills, newspaper clippings, flyers for art and music events, letters from her attorney, architectural photos, snapshots of friends, and portraits taken of her by the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Genzken attached these photocopied mementos to the pages of the books with wide strips of blue tape, creating grids reminiscent of canvases by Mondrian. The collages allude with an appealing openness to certain aspects of Genzken’s personal history, including her various illnesses and stays in psychiatric institutions. Although these autobiographically inflected works contain numerous hints of the artist’s vibrant social life, they also conjure moments of intense solitude.

Though Genzken’s new work may diverge in many ways from her earlier efforts, she continues to employ architectural motifs; for example, she incorporated photographs of buildings—including New York street scenes and private views from the window of her atelier in Berlin—into both the books and wooden pillars. The rectangular forms of the pillars also evoke skyscrapers, in part because Genzken covered their surfaces not only with photographs, but also with tinted glass, marble, sheets of metal, and mirrors, underscoring the otherwise latent reference to Modernist architecture.

As the polished execution of Genzken’s early sculpture gives way to a more immediate approach, the artist increasingly calls attention to the process involved—the books, wooden towers, and wall pieces all demonstrate a remarkably assured handling of materials, but they seem to indicate a certain mistrust of flawless appearances. This revealing show suggested that Genzken’s art still has many surprises in store.

Yilmaz Dzwiewior

Translated from the German by Diana Reese.