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Isa Genzken: Open, Sesame! at Whitechapel Gallery

LONDON.- Whitechapel Gallery presents Isa Genzken: Open, Sesame! This is the most comprehensive survey of Isa Genzken’s work to date, spanning her diverse practice from the late 1970s to today. After studying at the Berlin and Dusseldorf Academies in the 1970s, German sculptor Isa Genzken began to exhibit in Europe and then worldwide. Her exhibition titles - Everybody needs at least one Window (1992); Met Life (1996); See History (2006) or Oil (2007) - reveal fundamental concerns in her work.

The body is evoked in relation to the city, nature, progress and war. This exhibition begins with the computer designed and industrially produced wooden sculptures Genzken made in the 1970s. Their highly finished surfaces and the way they lie, or are propped, draw on the legacies of Constructivism and Minimalism. By contrast with these self contained objects, she then turned to the idea of transmission, with her ‘Hi-Fi series’ of radios, turntables and photographs of ears.

In the 1980s Genzken used plaster and cement to make ‘models’ of rooms and buildings, recast as contemporary ruins. Alongside plinth-based works, she has also created environments that reiterate her interest in sculptural and urban space. Mirrors and reflective surfaces refract the viewer’s body into the artist’s work. Building samples, photographs and bric-a-brac are combined to form structures that parody or improve on Modernist architecture.

The upper galleries trace Genzken’s move towards fragmentation and assemblage. She puts together mannequins and dolls, clothing, plants and vessels in expansive installations. Offering an exuberant profusion of colour and texture, her latest works offer a critical take on politics, global business, war and the environment.

A fully illustrated book accompanies the show, with a survey by Yve-Alain Bois and texts by Iwona Blazwick, David Bussel, Charlotte Cotton, Penelope Curtis, Tom McDonough, Helmut Draxler, Barbara Eugelbach, Julia Friedrich, Dan Graham, Nina Gülicher, Lilian Haberer, Kasper König, Ulrich Loock, Carina Plath, Donna De Salvo, Sabine Maria Schmidt, Christiane M. Schneider, Dieter Schwarz, Gregor Stemmrich, Andrea Tarsia, Wolfgang Tillmans, Lawrence Weiner and Ian White.

Organised in collaboration with the Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Supported by The German Federal Cultural Foundation, Goethe Institut, London, Hauser & Wirth, Zürich London, The Henry Moore Foundation, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin.

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