Isa Genzken. Works from 1973 to 1983

May 8 — Sep 5, 2021


  • Isa Genzken in her studio, Düsseldorf 1982, Photo: Andreas Schön © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021
  • Installation view: Isa Genzken, Die Form entwickelt sich daraus, dass jede der fünf Farben jede andere Farbe berührt, 1973, Sammlung Ringier; Rot-graues offenes Ellipsoid, 1978, Sammlung Grässlin; Meister Gerhard, 1983, Kunst Museum Winterthur

With two parallel exhibitions dedicated to Isa Genzken (b. 1948), Works from 1973 to 1983 and Here and Now, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen offers a special look at the work of one of the most important contemporary women artists worldwide. The focus is on two work phases from her career spanning five decades. On the lower floor of K21, the emphasis is on her visionary early work—a period that has never before been honored to this extent in any other exhibition. In parallel, current works from the last decade are on view on the bel étage. This exciting compilation draws attention to developments within the oeuvre, as well as to Isa Genzken’s attitude towards the world.

Works from 1973 to 1983 is an adapted version of the eponymous exhibition that was on view last fall at the Kunstmuseum Basel. In Düsseldorf, special reference will now made to the city, as well as to Genzken’s biography, because this is where the artist studied from 1973 to 1977 and subsequently lived until 1979. The exhibition thus begins with works from her years of study and builds a bridge to the year 1983, when Genzken increasingly turned her attention to the next theme. On display are sculptures, computer prints, multi-part drawing series, photography, and film.

One focal point of the exhibition are the Ellipsoids and Hyperboloids, elongated wooden sculptures based on elaborate computer calculations. Their aerodynamic form suggests industrial production, but in fact they are one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces that emerged from Isa Genzken’s engagement with the historical avant-garde and American Minimalism in particular. Unlike Minimalist art, however, her reduced aesthetic conceals subtle associations and references to her own biography, for example by the titles of her sculptures, which denote names of people, places, and objects.

The early works testify to Isa Genzken’s self-confidence and intransigence, with which she adopted her position in the field of sculpture—an environment that, in the 1970s, was largely dominated by men.

In addition to the sculptures, another focus of the exhibition is on the computer graphics, some of which are very large, measuring up to eight meters long. They were created from 1975 onwards parallel to the Ellipsoids and Hyperboloids and are printed on continuous paper, including the guide hole margins typical of the time. They reveal how Genzken played in an innovative way with algorithmic figures and the technical possibilities of her time. Here as well, the artist mixes conceptual approaches with personal themes. Works that initially appear abstract become recognizable at second glance as traces of her own existence and tell of relationships and desires.

The exhibition Isa Genzken. Works from 1973 to 1983 was conceived by the Kunstmuseum Basel in cooperation with the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

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