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Isa Genzken retrospective brings together 40 years of Genzken's inventive work
Isa Genzken, MLR, 1992. Lacquer on canvas, 48 1/16 x 32 5/16" (122 x 82 cm). Lonti Ebers, New York, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlinİ Isa Genzken.

DALLAS, TX.- The Dallas Museum of Art presents Isa Genzken: Retrospective, the first major U.S. exhibition to encompass the artist’s oeuvre, and the final venue for an exhibition the New Yorker hailed as “dazzling” and the New York Times described as “grand.” The exhibition was organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “Few artists have displayed as much moxie and versatility . . . nor sustained as vast and exciting a career,” wrote the Chicago Tribune about the first comprehensive retrospective of this artist’s epically diverse body of work in an American museum, and the largest to date.

Isa Genzken: Retrospective, on view September 14, 2014 through January 4, 2015, spans 40 years of Genzken’s inventive, audacious, and deeply influential career. The exhibition brings together approximately 100 objects in an astonishing variety of techniques, including assemblage, sculpture, painting, photography, collage, drawing, artist’s books, film, and large-scale installations. A majority of the works in the exhibition are on view in the U.S. for the first time, including the large-scale installation Schauspieler (Actors), while others have rarely been publicly exhibited anywhere.

Working across a diverse array of mediums, Genzken has been inspired by two grand themes: modernity and urban architecture. Her career has also unfolded in chapters, beginning in the late 1970s, and continuing without cease until today, when a new generation has been inspired by the artist’s radical inventiveness. Ranging from large-scale sculptures that limn constructivist and minimalist aesthetics, to rougher, more overtly architectural concrete works that conjure ruins, to paintings, photographs, and found-object installations that have redefined sculpture for a new era, Genzken’s body of work represents both a rare artistic freedom and a disciplined, almost obsessive sensitivity toward the relationship of individuals to their sculptural surroundings.

“We are pleased to be one of the three institutions to organize the largest survey, and the first in America, of undoubtedly one of the most influential sculptors of the past 40 years, Isa Genzken,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “Genzken’s career has included numerous high-profile international exhibitions, including the German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2007. With the presentation of Isa Genzken: Retrospective in Dallas, the DMA provides a special opportunity for visitors to become better acquainted with the great breadth of her achievements.”

“Isa Genzken: Retrospective encompasses Genzken’s work in all mediums, produced over the past 40 years, presenting the definitive picture of this artist’s astonishing achievements throughout her trans-generational career,” said Jeffrey Grove, co-organizing curator of the exhibition.

Highlights from the exhibition:

• Rot-schwarz-gelbes Ellipsoid ‘S.L. Popova’ (Red-Black-Yellow Ellipsoid ‘S.L. Popova’), 1981, this 17-foot-long work from Genzken’s early period, one of her Ellipsoid works, reflects her growing fascination with the precision of both natural and man-made engineering.

• Door (Tür), 1988, is part of Genzken’s series of free-standing concrete sculptures on high steel pedestals. These works, with their cubic forms and industrial materials, connect to a minimalist aesthetic, while their handmade quality and resemblance to bombed-out ruins boldly fly in the face of minimalism’s formalist rigor. Beautiful in their extreme austerity, they are also grim embodiments of the disillusion with modernist utopian visions that characterized post-modernity of the late 1980s.

• MLR, 1992, is a canvas from Genzken’s 1992 series of paintings called MLR, an abbreviation for the phrase “more light research.” Using spray paint, lacquer, and stencils made from a variety of perforated materials, Genzken created an effect reminiscent of photograms—photographic images produced without a camera by placing objects on photosensitive paper and exposing the paper to light.

• Oil XI, 2007, the centerpiece of a 16-part installation first exhibited in the German pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, evokes the zeitgeist of a world in a state of terror. The installation, with its accumulation of rolling suitcases, calls to mind a transit station that has suddenly been abandoned, perhaps due to an unseen threat. Three astronauts, identified as NASA employees by the insignia on their uniforms, float overhead, as if exploring the ruins of a devastated culture.

• Schauspieler (Actors), 2013, is on view for the first time during this tour. This multipart installation, completed in 2013, features elaborately altered mannequins dressed in an assortment of clothes, collaged elements, and repurposed sculptural materials. Some of the clothes are Genzken’s own, while others were found or purchased. By calling this ensemble Schauspieler (Actors), Genzken suggests that by moving among the forms we, too, are actors in a theater or on a film set.

Isa Genzken was born in 1948 in Bad Oldesloe, a town outside Hamburg, Germany. In the mid-1970s, as a student at Düsseldorf’s renowned Kunstakademie, she created large-scale stereometric wooden floor sculptures, which gained her early international acclaim. Beginning in the 1980s, she made sculptures in plaster and concrete, ranging in size from maquettes to monumental. In the late 1980s, she expanded her practice to include painting, and by the mid-1990s she was experimenting with architectural forms such as windows made of epoxy resin. From the late 1990s on, Genzken created increasingly complex assemblage installations that engage with the geopolitical issues of our time.

Genzken began exhibiting her work in 1976, when she was the youngest woman to have a solo presentation at the influential Konrad Fischer Galerie in Düsseldorf. She has exhibited internationally since 1980, and has participated in Documenta (1982, 1992, 2002), the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 2003, 2007), Skulptur Projekte Münster (1987, 1997, 2007), the Istanbul Biennial (2001), and the Carnegie International (2004). In 2007 she represented Germany at the 52nd Venice Biennale. Recent surveys of her work have taken place at Museion, Bolzano, Italy (2010); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2009); and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2009).

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