- Isa Genzken
- concrete and steel
- 225 by 80 by 48cm.; 88 5/8 by 31 1/2 by 18 7/8 in.
- Executed in 1990.
First created in 1990, these raw concrete shapes evoke the ruins of a modernist arcadia held up as a relic, akin to the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum that stand testament to the opulence of the antique world. The dominance of exposed concrete can be read as a critique of the failed modernist utopia of mass public housing, a project that left the individual behind in a grey desert of anonymity. It is in these destructive ruins of history that Genzken identifies a starting point for the human element of chance and coincidence to emerge and redefine a new aesthetic. The present work is made so bluntly – concrete layers poured one upon the other – that its structural dependence on gravity becomes equally graceless and staggering. This volitional arbitrariness forms an aesthetic and philosophical contrast to the highly crafted, sleek, rounded, and colourful wooden objects of Genzken’s early career such as the Ellipsoids and the Hyperbolos that are reminiscent of kayaks or rockets. Fenster does not allude to our classic perception of beauty but rather openly embraces the marks of imperfection that frame different aspects of reality.
The view through the open concrete frame acts as a paradigm for scrutinising the world around us. The relation between the inside and the outside under the conditions of an impending breakdown of the boundaries is the point of origin of these sculptures and recalls the Surrealist examination of this subject, most notably perhaps René Magritte’s The Human Condition. Taking the concept of the painting within a painting and translating it into material presence, Fenster is firmly embedded within its surrounding environment and develops a direct relation to empirical reality.
As one of the pre-eminent and most influential German artists of her time, Isa Genzken has created a fascinatingly diverse oeuvre, oscillating seamlessly between a variety of mediums that range from sculpture, photography, installation, and painting. Embracing different styles and materials for each series as a new departure, Genzken has constantly developed and re-invented her own artistic practice in order to comment on the political, architectural, and everyday aspects of contemporary culture. Writing on Genzken’s multifaceted and visionary practice, curator Alex Farquharson poignantly states that “… the trajectory of Genzken’s work seems one of the most fascinating of its time. Rarely in sync with the artistic fashions of the day, her new departures have often only been properly understood some time after the event. Hers is an exceptionally complex oeuvre that has gained in significance over time” (Alex Farquharson, ‘What Architecture Isn’t’ in: Alex Farquharson, Diedrich Diederichsen and Sabine Breitwieser, Isa Genzken, London 2006, p. 33).