• Untitled

    • Isa Genzken’s Untitled, 2012, is an example of the artist’s most explicit engagement with the human form to date. This work portrays a somewhat drastic distinction to the urban, architectural, and geometric forms that characterised her previous work. By using a commercially made mannequin as the structural base, Genzken makes a deliberate reference to the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition held at the Galérie Beaux-Arts in Paris. This seminal exhibition represented the manifestation of the surrealist movement, anticipating an entirely new genre of modern art and exhibition making, that would shape the discourse of modern art for decades to come. Most notably was the room humorously titled Plus belles rues de Paris, a long corridor lined with 16 mannequins provocatively costumed by the contributing artists. For Genzken and the Surrealist’s alike, it is the mannequin’s aesthetical closeness to the human form, that provides the perfect structure in which to expose the uncertainty between animate and inanimate, a concept embedded in the theory of the uncanny.

      Following her critically acclaimed retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2013, Genzken created the first of her mannequin sculptures that lead to the formation of her series Schauspieler (Actors). Presenting an installation of 13 mannequins, many wearing her own clothing in combination with eclectic props. This vision through her chosen materials presents an entirely contemporary take on the historic mode of self-portraiture. Untitled, 2012 comments on consumerist excess inherent in a society ruled by capitalism. The female figure’s face is partially covered by her sunglasses and long black hair appearing draped in an uncomfortable abundance of clothing as if drowning in excess. Situated on her chest is a square material form, portraying snippets of what appears to be screens broadcasting police riots.

      Throughout her near four-decade-long career, Genzken has created “works [that] are never just what you see. She has a very special, different view of things that is not invented, but real feeling,”i as the artist’s long-time gallery owner Daniel Buchholz proclaimed. Never ceasing to interrogate the impact of our increasingly commodified society and its interconnected culture, Genzken engages with these topics with dramatic ferocity. Her art not only comments on reality, but in many respects holds a mirror up to it. Very much like the surrealist’s use of the uncanny, exposes a dichotomy between surface appearances and what lies beneath.


      i Daniel Buchholz, quoted in Gaby Reucher, "A Steel rose: Isa Genzken at 70", Deutsche Welle, November 27, 2018, online.

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