The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago presents the first large-scale American retrospective of Isa Genzken, one of the most important and influential sculptors of the past forty years. This exhibition of work by the renowned Berlin-based German artist, organized jointly by MCA Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Dallas Museum of Art, seeks to introduce American audiences to the breadth of Genzken's forty-plus-year career. Isa Genzken: Retrospective is on view from April 12 to August 3, 2014 and is organized by Michael Darling, MCA Chicago James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator; Sabine Breitwieser, former MoMA Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, Laura Hoptman, MoMA Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture; Jeffrey Grove, Dallas Museum of Art Senior Curator of Special Projects & Research; with Stephanie Weber, MoMA Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art.
Genzken began exhibiting in the late 1970s, appearing regularly in solo shows at major galleries and museums as well as prestigious international group shows such as the Venice Biennale and dOCUMENTA. Her early work was initially inspired by Minimalism but quickly expanded to blur traditional distinctions between painting, sculpture, and photography. Genzken's eclectic approach could be compared to other artists-Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, James Welling-but unlike them, Genzken cannot be defined by a single medium and she has made influential contributions in numerous fields.
This exhibition encompasses Genzken's work produced over the past four decades, with the past decade being one of particular productivity for Genzken. During this time she has taken her interest in found objects and collage and created several bodies of work that have redefined assemblage for younger artists working today. These works range from smaller, diorama-like works to room-filling installations, incorporate photographs, kitschy souvenirs, pop culture cast-offs, cheap household products, and high-end design objects. Genzken is interested in combining many materials to create evocative statements that are immediately recognizable by the public as hers. The breadth of her achievements-which includes not only three-dimensional works but also paintings, photographs, collages, artist's books, performances, films, and public sculptures-has remained obscure in most of the United States, and many of the works in this exhibition are on view in this country for the first time.
Divided into chronological sections and arranged thematically within those sections, the exhibition presents major works and series as points that signal new phases or chapters in the artist's body of work. The exhibition begins with Genzken's Minimalist sculptures from the 1970s and early 1980s (Gelbes Ellipsoid [Yellow Ellipsoid] , Rotschwarz- gelbes Ellipsoid 'S.L. Popova' [Red-black-yellow Ellipsoid 'S.L. Popova'] ), and her plaster, concrete, and epoxy sculptures from the 1980s (Mein Gehirn , Bild ), and culminates with series of assemblages that she began in the late 1990s and continues today (Spielautomat (Slot machine) [1999-2000], Kinder Filmen [Filming Children] , Hospital (Ground Zero) ). Two new large-scale works are on view for the first time: Untitled (2012), a monumental photo-collage, and Schauspieler (Actors) (2013), a multipart environment that features elaborately altered mannequins and props. Another major installation, Oil XI (2007), which was part of her installation in the German Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, is part of the exhibition.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that features in-depth essays by the exhibition's four curators, as well as Lisa Lee, a specialist on Genzken's work and a professor at the University of Chicago.
Isa Genzken was born in 1948 in Bad Oldesloe, a town outside Hamburg, Germany. In the mid-1970s, as a student at Düsseldorf's renowned Kunstakademie, she created large-scale wooden floor sculptures, which gained her early international acclaim. Beginning in the 1980s, she made sculptures in plaster and concrete, ranging in size from maquettes to monumental. In the late 1980s, she expanded her practice to include painting, and by the mid-1990s she was experimenting with architectural forms like windows made of epoxy resin, collage, and, eventually, assemblage. From the late 1990s on, Genzken created increasingly complex assemblage installations that engage with the geopolitical issues of our time. Genzken began exhibiting her work in 1976, when she was the youngest woman to have a solo presentation at the influential Konrad Fischer Galerie in Düsseldorf. She has exhibited internationally since 1980, and has participated in three dOCUMENTAs (1982, 1992, 2002), the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 2003, 2007), Skulptur Projekte Münster (1987, 1997, 2007), the Istanbul Biennial (2001), and the Carnegie International (2004). In 2007 she represented Germany at the 52nd Venice Biennale. Recent surveys of her work have taken place at Museion, Bolzano, Italy (2010), Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2009), and Whitechapel Gallery, London (2009).