Architectural, tactile, brazen: Isa Genzken’s art is at once playful yet commands the viewer with its physicality. Abendmahl comes from the artist's Ground Zero series, an ode to the city of New York in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. Uniting themes of art history, politics, architecture and social space, Genzken’s art acts as a thought provoking and engaging reflection of our current society.
Genzken emerged as one of the most prominent German artists of the late 20th century. Born in the small town of Bad Oldesloe in Germany, it was her later move to Dusseldorf which ignited her fascination with the geometries of modernist architecture. Genzken’s body of work is heterogeneous, it adapts and evolves with the social shifts in society, yet her approach is clearly rooted in her architectural inclination. Her ambition to bridge the chasm that separated the absence of sculpture in Germany from its abundance in American Minimalism has established her as a force within the contemporary art world. Working alongside artists such as Joseph Beuys, a new wave of German creatives emerged, reviving social sculpture in the country and reinvigorating the German art scene, with Genzken at the forefront.
The year of 1996 saw a radical shift in Genzken’s practice, she embraced collage and assemblage as her preferred outlet. Abendmahl is a striking example of this facet of her output, offering an interrogation into the nature of material and art history. Here, Genzken’s integration of two of the most recognisable images in the art historical canon; Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1495-98) and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-15), adds to the postmodern impulse of appropriation art. From the readymades of Marcel Duchamp to the reproductions of Sherrie Levine, Genzken taps into this postmodern lineage in her own idiosyncratic manner. Her appropriation of the canonical works not only questions the nature and definition of art itself, but also reflects on the importance of art in our society. The precision of the Old Masters against the chaos of the collage is a fascinating juxtaposition. The shreds of Bosch’s masterpiece appear like ruins in the aftermath, yet Genzken offers hope that art provides healing and unity in the face of destruction.
Genzken is known for her unorthodox use of materials; the incorporation of chachka objects and kitsch materials, often found on the streets of New York, imbue her late works with the dynamic energy of the city. Bursts of fluorescent spray paint evoke the joie de vivre inherent to New York, whilst strips of tape and layers of mirrored foil add to the work’s structural nature. Abendmahl epitomises the artists unique approach to collage and encapsulates her obsession with the architectural possibilities of art.
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