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Neon meets Nefertiti in totemic sculptural form

Isa Genzken’s colourful show anticipates her 2013 MoMA retrospective

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Neon meets Nefertiti in totemic sculptural form

Image: Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

November 12 2012
Nicole Swengley

Collectors with an appetite for the curious, the unconventional and the colourful will be delighted by a subversive solo sculpture show opening at Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery on Thursday November 15. Visually playful, the pieces are the latest manifestation of Berlin-based artist Isa Genzken’s three-dimensional commentaries on urban living, and this display of new and recent collages (worth about £120,000 to £280,000) anticipates next year’s major retrospective of her work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Genzken’s influences are many and varied, ranging from modernist architecture and urban chaos to 1960s pop culture. Precariously stacked assemblages of seemingly incongruous objects – empty shipping crates, designer furniture, photographs, found objects, even potted plants (third picture) – are coaxed into deliciously subversive montages resembling skyscrapers. Sculpture and photography overlap in these architectural collages, whose dense surfaces are created using magazines, flyers, reproduced artworks, self-portraits and snapshots of friends.

Highlights include six sculptures themed around Nefertiti, an ancient icon of feminine beauty. Genzken toys with plaster reproductions of the bust she originally saw in Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, placing them on tall, white pedestals and pairing them with that Renaissance paragon of beauty the Mona Lisa, whose image leans against each stand. Genzken mischievously positions herself and her own artistic practice within this multimedia exploration of pulchritude and the place of women in art history by overlaying her own self-portrait on the Mona Lisa.

As visually arresting are the totemic columns topped by Italian 1970s acrylic chairs (first picture) and a new series of horizontal collages featuring 20th-century icons, including Michael Jackson (fourth picture), Donald Duck and Joseph Beuys, which span the gallery’s floor like a pavement (see also second picture). And it’s here that urban street life clashes head on, quite literally, with contemporary sculpture.