Genzken’s immersive environment expands on the themes of travel, through elements of an aircraft cabin, and the window as a juncture between interior and exterior spaces. In this respect, it reveals the artist’s interest in architecture and light, a topic of enduring resonance in her work as seen in the landmark exhibition in Chicago in 1992, ‘Everybody Needs at Least One Window’.
Isa Genzken has long been considered one of Germany’s most important and influential contemporary artists. Since the 1970s, Genzken’s multifaceted practice has encompassed sculpture, photography, found-object installation, film, drawing and painting. Her work borrows from the aesthetics of Minimalism, punk culture and assemblage art to confront the conditions of human experience in contemporary society and the uneasy social climate of capitalism. Throughout her fifty-year career, Genzken’s primary focus has always been sculpture, and although her style has remained varied, her work has maintained a striking common thread and internal truth to both her vision and to the works of art themselves.
Selected Images – 3 of 3
Project for Almere, on the occasion of ‚Eingeladen / Uitgenodigd‘ at the Almeers Centrum Hedendaagse Kunst, De Paviljoens, Almere, unrealized
Model, scale 1:50
Plastic, acrylic paint, metal, wood
153 x 70 x 50 cm / 60 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 19 5/8 in
© Isa Genzken / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galerie Buchholz Cologne / Berlin / New York
Photo: Jen Ziehe
The exhibition begins with ‘Saal (Room)’ made in 1989, a concrete sculpture which rises from its stark metal stand like a Brutalist architectural model. Oscillating between construction and destruction, it exists somewhere between fragmented ruin and autonomous space, appraising the lasting influence of modern architecture and its social and cultural implications, while paving the way for the ‘Fenster’ series that would follow. ‘Fenster’ or ‘Windows’ have long featured in Genzken opus, they are at once open and closed, material and immaterial, transparent and solid. They also give visual form to a central question in the artist’s oeuvre that deals with the relationship between sculpture and space, location and perception, examining the window as a social and architectural connection between interior and exterior.
The centre piece of the exhibition presents dislocated aeroplane parts – windows and seats – that evoke the instability of a global, homogenous society in constant flux and perpetual motion. Hanging from the walls of the gallery Genzken has placed fifteen airplane windows, displayed as if they were paintings, yet they are strangely reminiscent of eyes, the blinds like eyelids open, half open or completely closed. These subvert our understood notion of a window looking out onto the world – here they look back, observing the viewer, turning the voyeur into the view. For Genzken, travel is positive experience which presents the opportunity to view the world from new perspectives. As she said in the past on her use of the window as a tool, ‘The idea is that you open yourself up and find different ways of looking at things; that you have more than one frame of reference for the sculpture.’  Enhancing this new viewpoint, we find a dreamlike countenance pervading the displaced, vacant seats of ‘Untitled’ (2018), implying an abandoned mode of transport, melancholic remnants which recall the splendour of air travel and the wonders it might bring.
Featured image: Fenster, Venloer Straße, 1988