It is difficult to understand Isa Genzken. Because she works in such different formats as painting, sculpture, photography, installation and film. Because she uses such different materials as wood, plaster, concrete, epoxy resin, plastic and just simple everyday objects. Because she has worked on so many, sometimes contradictory projects. And also because she does not explain her work and gives no interviews. The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam has succeeded in making her work understandable in a comprehensive retrospective, because for once the works are not exhibited chronologically, but thematically, which makes it possible to recognise connections.
The most significant living female artist
Isa Genzken was born in 1948 and trained as an artist in Hamburg, Berlin and Düsseldorf. She had her first exhibition at the age of 27 in Düsseldorf. She lived in Cologne for twenty years, experienced the rise of the art scene and got to know her later husband Gerhard Richter, whose student she had been in his master class in Düsseldorf. Their marriage ended in divorce ten years later. It was followed by long stays in New York and her move to Berlin. Isa Genzken has taken part in the documenta in Kassel three times, represented Germany at the Biennale in Venice and was already the subject of a major retrospective in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2013. Today she is considered by some to be the world’s most important living female artist.
Entitled “Mach Dich hübsch”, the exhibition in Amsterdam presents the “cornerstones” of her work, radically enlarged sculptures that made her famous as well as the film “Die kleine Bushaltestelle”, in which two prostitutes (Isa Genzken and her fellow artist Kai Althoff) talk about their life. The episodes can be understood as a reflection on the artist’s profession. However, they can also be a user manual for the work of Isa Genzken.
Isa Genzken Retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam until 6 March 2016