Magazine article Art Monthly

Isa Genzken

Magazine article Art Monthly

Isa Genzken

Article excerpt

Isa Genzken

Hauser & Wirth London April 3 to May 17

Between Bridges London April 4 5o May 25

Between Bridges London April 4 to May 25 The World Trade Center was for a long time exemplary of a conflict between two approaches to urban planning, symbolised by the activist Jane Jacobs on the one hand and on the other the city planner Robert Moses, who instituted a number of high-profile municipal projects that today define the city's landscape, razing existing neighbourhoods in order to do so. The World Trade Center was the last gasp of this sort of planning--urban regeneration by way of large-scale rebuilding--and was largely disliked by the city, as was Moses himself. Jacobs's famous polemic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961, was directed against Moses's policies, and celebrated instead the self-sufficiency of the local community which, left alone, looked after itself in local shops and busy streets. The contrast between the approaches has been gendered: Moses the 'power broker' and the motherly, lefty Jacobs, with her support of the different, the incongruous and the organic.

This either/or is instrumental in thinking about Isa Genzken's 'Ground Zero', a show of proposals for the Twin Towers and related series of assemblage sculptures, that looked at the idea of twins, or pairs--which her work has always formally militated against. The exhibition was spread out across two venues: the Hauser & Wirth Piccadilly space, in which Genzken showed the assemblages and the Twin Tower models--created in collaboration with a team of structural engineers, so that each of them is a viable proposal for the Ground Zero site--and a suite of screen-prints at Between Bridges, Wolfgang Tillmans's project space in the East End.

The sculptures were ungainly, chaotic things, telling a story of New York before September 2001 as a place of offices, homes and entertainment, depicted through the elements that they comprised: irons, curtain rods, a dismembered Barcelona chair, collapsed shelving, slogans and broken toys. Conceived as a look at the state of the nation then and now, the two parts of the show--the assemblages of 'then' and the proposals for 'now'--functioned on distinctly different formal principles, in a way that demonstrated Genzken's control over her material, despite the often ugly or disjunctive effects it produces. In the assemblages, different pairings emerged, and through them Genzken examined the way in which coupling operates to lend cohesion to a work--the logic that allows Jacobs to be put against Moses, for example. …

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