Born in Germany in 1948 to artistic parents, Genzken grew up in Hamburg before moving to Berlin and then finally settling in Cologne in her early twenties. She was certain of her artistic interests and immersed herself in the Cologne art scene. Her close friend Benjamin Buchloh was already in Cologne and working for the dealer Rudolf Zwirner. After leaving briefly to study in Düsseldorf, Genzken returned to Cologne and stayed for twenty years. She was integral to the rising artistic profile of the city, which was no longer secondary to the importance of Düsseldorf. In 1976 she was given her first solo exhibition at Konrad Fischer's gallery and it was at Konrad Fischer that Genzken was exposed to Carl Andre's work and her relationship with Minimalism developed. The artist's early main body of work shared similarities with the Minimalist tradition championed in the 1960s: her work consisted of industrially manufactured components, and simple clean forms and lines whose meaning could be read at a glance. The difference for Genzken, however, was that her sculptures necessitated a generation of pictorial and spatial illusion. They were not coherent, discrete self-contained objects. They were characterized by elongated geometric forms, primarily constructed from wood and arranged on the ground in various patterns and relationships with each other, and their presence was virtually gestural.
After her divorce from artist Gerhard Richter, Genzken traveled to New York in 1989 and spent the year working in new surroundings. It was in this same year that she had her first solo exhibition in the United States at Jack Shainman Gallery. While in New York, she spent her time making collaged books titled I love New York and Crazy City. These books represented information overload - the stimulation and urban pace of the city as she was working through her own unsettled emotions. She describes these works in an interview, with Michael Krajewski, "It does have to do with my own personal gaze. How New York struck me, how I saw New York, what I loved and it was also supposed to be personal." (Micahel Krajewski & Isa Genzken, "Fragility can be a Very Beautiful Thing," Parkett 69, 2003, p. 98). The present work is evocative of these earlier books. It showcases her ability to create remarkable new environments for viewers to enter that are created out of what shapes our everyday existence and our visual recognition. Kinder Filmen I is both poetic and chaotic. The psychedelic striations of tape and the dripping paint cover the collaged images, splitting up the mirrored planes and perhaps representing a breakdown of innocence in a reference to the title. The mirrors draw us into the composition, yet our perceptions are subverted: once in, the colorful bifurcations are energetic and aggressive ways of simultaneously trapping us and pushing us back out.
In 2002, Genzken was included in Documenta 11 and represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2003. A decade later, in November 2013, the artist will be the subject of a solo exhibition in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, and in a press release for the show, the museum described Genzken as the "most important and influential sculptor of the past 30 years." This will be the artist's first survey in the United States, however her work is included in important museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh. Genzken's style has evolved significantly from the 1970s and it is with the works from the most recent decade, such as the present Kinder Filmen I that she has squarely positioned herself among the most important artists of our time. In her own words, her method and meaning are straightforward and truthful: "When I make something, I really try to get to the point. It's strange. I'm saying that because I'm often asked how I come up with these ideas. As though it was something special. But they just come to me, they're intuitive. If I try to make something particular, it just doesn't work. I can't explain it any other way, but I think it's important." (Ibid., p. 98).
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