Isa Genzken: Open Sesame! at Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
April 5 through June 21
Whitechapel Gallery opened their newly expanded space on April 5th with works by German sculptor Isa Genzken, in an appropriately titled retrospective exhibition Open: Sesame! Genken’s body of work embodies a series of sensory dichotomies wherein the viewer is presented with one visual idea and simultaneously asked to consider another.
Presented with Genken’s work from the 1970’s to present day, the viewer digests a comprehensive exhibition full of multi-media works including painting, photography, works on paper, sculpture, and installation in a variety of industrial and delicate materials.
In Genken’s earlier works from her hi-fi series, she made radios and receivers from concrete. The works connote a recognizable, everyday object yet repress its practical function, as it can’t make noise. It explores the relationship between the signifier and the signified. She uses a similar device in her photograph Ohr (Ear), where the photograph acts as a beautiful depiction of an ear and serves as a silent representation of the act of hearing.
Moulds and imprints are also significant to aspects of her earlier work as she uses them to create inversions and patterns. These works layer narrative qualities of the object and the image rendered. Conversely, her MLR series focuses more on an analytical visual perceptions of the optical patterns.
Genzken plays with scale and representation like creating models of architectural designs from tinted panels of Perspex in her New Buildings for Berlin, or the massive windows constructed from colored resin which greet you as you enter the exhibition. She also renders three dimensional objects in two dimensional formats as is evident in her hundreds of photographs of New York City which echoes ones perspectives of walking through New York regarding the buildings and architecture from numerous angles. She takes the idea of a real life experience in flattens it into two dimensions. Genzken draws on the superficial nature of the surface to ask the viewer to look closer at representations.
Her work contains a flamboyant sense of humor. She creates monuments - environments which concurrently explore notions of construction and deconstruction through a light-hearted perspective. Memorial Tower (Ground Zero) and Hospital (Ground Zero) commemorates a destructive historical event, yet builds a colorful, flashy tribute through her use of bright disposable materials.
Genzken uses elements of assemblage in her newer works, taking a pieced together approach. In works like Fuck the Bauhaus and Strandhauser zum Umziehen (Beach Huts), her multi media objects are carefully crafted and displayed on plinths with haphazard looking “Do-it-Yourself” qualities. In her works I Love New York, Crazy City, and Slot Machine, Genzken creates scrapbook-like works of personal imagery and items which compose her personal narrative. She uses cheap, accessible, and found materials to cleverly manufacture her newest visual explorations. Whether Genzken is reconstructing space or existing ideas of materiality, her eclectic work continues to form a provocative amalgamation of aesthetics.
Along with Open Sesame! Whitechapel Gallery has a number of other exhibitions running through June including: Passports: Great Early Buys from the British Council Collection, and Minerva Cuevas: S.COOP.
Isa Genzken (b. 1948) is currently living and working in Berlin. She studied Hamburg College of Fine Art (1969-1971), Berlin University of Fine Art (1971-1973) and the Dusseldorf Academy (1973-1977.) Her work has been featured in a number of international galleries and museums as well as various of public and private collections. Genzken is represented by Daniel Buchholz in Cologne, Hauser & Wirth in London Zurich, and David Zwirner in New York
Susannah Haworth is from the Washington D.C. area and moved to London to pursue her MA degree in Contemporary Art at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. She graduated from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 2006 with a BA in Art and Art History. Susannah recently managed the international art fair, Year_07 Art Projects and currently works at the Keith Talent Gallery.