Magazine article Sculpture

BONN, GERMANY: Isa Genzken

Magazine article Sculpture

BONN, GERMANY: Isa Genzken

Article excerpt

Bundeskunsthalle

Visitors to the last Venice Biennale might recall Isa Genzken's 23 models for outdoor sculptures, which appeared in the main pavilion. If not, this probably has more to do with curator Okwui Enwezor's incomprehensible decision to present them with, of all things, Walker Evans's legendary photo series "Let us now praise famous men" than with the sculptures themselves. The models were recently shown again in Bonn, with 12 new additions; together, these 35 works document Genzken's public projects from 1986 to the present.

The exhibition, however, offered far more than mere documentation. The models, executed by the Berlin architectural and model-building firm of Henrik Hilsbos in conjunction with Genzken, unleash a surprising sculptural power. Such aesthetic completeness negates any assumption that a model-like portrayal of large-scale, and in some instances, gigantic, formats necessarily results in something dry and didactic. Their success is due only in part to the fact that (architectural) models have long since advanced to a proper sculptural discipline-works by Dan Graham, Thomas Schütte, or Peter Friedl come to mind. Genzken's models go further. Presented on slender bases, they influence the viewer's imagination immensely by contrasting context- elegantly abstracted portrayals of the environment kept to a neutral white-and the sculptures themselves-exactly rendered miniatures, highly detailed in terms of color and material effect.

An astonishing stylistic and conceptual diversity emerged in the chronological sequence of the works. Here as well, Genzken proves to be a master of metamorphosis. Whereas works from the 1980s and 1990s are formally stringent, minimalistic, and architectural in the broadest sense of the term, showing a predilection for sparse materials such as concrete and metal, beginning around 2000, the models become increasingly colorful and experimental. …

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