Played Self: Isa Genzken New Works

Isa-Genzken-New-Works-MMK-FrankfurtComprised of more than 40 mannequins, several floor and wall collages and a film, Isa Genzken: New Works are on display at MMK Frankfurt until 31st May 2015.

Director of the MMK and curator of the exhibition Dr Susanne Gaensheimer states,

“The fact that Isa Genzken has already brought forth an entire new workgroup of such magnitude since her major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013 is amazing, and an expression of her tremendous creativity”.

The sculptress is omnipresent within the show. There are biographical photographs in her collages that have then been combined with pop culture imagery and illustrations of motifs from the art of the past. In her 1974 black and white film “Zwei Frauen im Gefecht (Two Women Engaged in Combat)”, Genzken and fellow artist Susan Grayson continuously get dressed and undressed as they share one entire outfit.

So-called actors, shop-window mannequins of adult and child size that Genzken dressed in her own discarded clothes, form the core of the exhibition. There’s something unsettling yet intriguing about them. The colourful figures draw you in whilst at the same repel you with their twisted limbs, mismatched apparel, parts of their bodies covered with duct tape and unusual arrangement within the space. We want to step into the middle of a circle of actors to see what emotions it would evoke but are reminded to behave by the invigilator.

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Genzken remarks,

“I want to make sculptures that represent a scene in a film, in other words have model character, not sculpture in the traditional sense”.

Seeing Genzken’s actors, I can’t help but make connections to the Blockupy protest that had just taken place in Frankfurt against the opening of the new base of the European Central Bank. The reflective grid foil used for Genzken’s collages and actors brings the metal glass structure of the new bank building to mind, while the spray paint on the mannequins call up the slogans written by the protesters.

Since the 1970s, Isa Genzken has taken a critical look at the German and American art of the post-war years and has created an independent and distinctive visual language that reflects the spirit of the early 21st century. She challenges the concept of the individual as a single entity and instead draws out multiple layers of the self within her art.

Published online at Pigeons & Peacocks on 30th March 2015.

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