“The Only Female Fool” is how Isa Genzken describes herself in the self-chosen title of her exhibition at the Kunsthalle Wien. This statement is typical of the fluid boundaries between deep seriousness and the exuberant, eccentric spirit that pervades her work. Genzken's artistic practice is characterized by a wide spectrum of media and forms, although her roots in sculpture always remain visible. The exhibition and catalogue focus on specific aspects of her oeuvre, including the mirror motif, the examination of architecture, and space as a social sphere; where early works are juxtaposed with series from later creative periods. Genzken's collaboration with other artists and her admiration for certain artistic positions is also brought into focus, and selected works by Dan Graham
, Gordon Matta-Clark
, Jasper Johns, Gerhard Richter
, Wolfgang Tillmans
, and Lawrence Weiner
are presented in dialogue with Genzken's multilayered work.
Published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition “I'm Isa Genzken, the Only Female Fool” at Kunsthalle Wien,
May 28–September 7, 2014.
A student at the dynamic Düsseldorf Academy during the 1960s, Genzken has since consistently challenged Modernist imperatives in her explorations of the relationships between public and private space, artistic autonomy and collective experience. The artist's oeuvre, which can be subsumed under the term “sculptural
,” is characterized by extreme contrasts between the individual stages of development. However, the characterization of Isa Genzken as a traditional sculptor, along with the usual remarks concerning the heterogeneity of her methods (photography, video, film, collages, and collage books), veils a stronger internal logic. While the work demonstrates a continuous examination of the classic themes of sculpture (the ordering of mass and volume; the relation between construction, surface design, and materials; the conception of and relation between objects, space, and the viewer), what the “traditional sculptor” label cannot quite capture is Genzken's remarkable ruthlessness: the manner in which her work underlines the rejection of traditional understandings of sculpture and space while reflecting on and disclosing the specific circumstances of their production and reception.