Isa Genzken: Retrospective brings together 40 years of Genzken’s inventive work in the first U.S. museum retrospective of the artist

Dallas, TX—September 11, 2014—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.

About Isa Genzken
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).

Exhibition Catalogue
Published in conjunction with the first comprehensive retrospective of her diverse body of work in the U.S., Isa Genzken: Retrospective is the most complete monograph on the artist available in English. The catalogue presents Genzken’s career in essays by Sabine Breitwieser, Laura Hoptman, Michael Darling, Jeffrey Grove, and Lisa Lee that explore the unfolding of her practice from 1973 until today, and provides an expansive illustrated chronological overview of her most important bodies of work and key exhibitions. Hardcover, $75.00; 9.5 x 12"; 334 pages; 237 color illustrations. Distributed to the trade by ARTBOOK|D.A.P. in the United States and Canada, and by Thames & Hudson outside the United States and Canada. 

Isa Genzken: Retrospective is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition is included in the DMA’s free general admission. The presentation is made possible by TWO X TWO for AIDS and Art, an annual fundraising event that jointly benefits amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and the Dallas Museum of Art;  the Contemporary Art Initiative; and the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas. Air transportation provided by American Airlines. Exhibition-related programming will be scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition. For dates, prices, and details, visit

Image: Isa Genzken, Door (Tür), 1988, concrete and steel, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, © Isa Genzken; Isa Genzken, MLR, 1992, lacquer on canvas, Lonti Ebers, New York, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin, © Isa Genzken; Isa Genzken, Hospital (Ground Zero), 2008, metal tray dolly, plastic flowers in spray-painted vase, ribbon, metal, mirror foil, synthetic polymer paint on fabric, shot glasses, fiberboard, and casters, Collection Charles Asprey, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin, © Isa Genzken

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum welcomes some 600,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country, which currently has over 70,000 members. For more information, visit

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.