Isa Genzken’s solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth consists of enough of her recent sculptural and collage work to fill the gallery’s two vast Savile Row venues. The exhibition’s impressive scale, which is comparable to a significant institutional survey, allows visitors to gain a good grasp of the Berlin-based artist’s practice, even though much of the thinking behind the creation of her work remains unclear.
At the centre of the South Gallery’s first room is a gorilla mask that sits atop three transparent plastic chairs that are stacked beside a patio umbrella, while the next room is filled with androgynous mannequins covered in distinctly unfashionable clothes. In the North Gallery a series of plaster cast reproductions of the famous bust of Egyptian princess Nefertiti are each given a pair of sunglasses and placed along a row of tall white plinths. Running parallel to this is a line of pedestals each of which has one or two upturned plastic chairs on top of it. Filling the majority of the wall space of the two venues are a series of collages created from wrapping paper, mirror foil, scans of photographs and other similar readily accessible material.
What links all of these artworks is that they are built out of cheap and disposable mass-produced objects and materials. In addition to this, nearly every one of these ready-made objects have been supplemented with the addition of numerous small and roughly attached appendages, for example, small toys are crudely affixed with large splodges of glue, figurines and wallets are lodged into crevices, and fabrics are unceremoniously bound on with tape. After making these additions, Genzken’s final act appears to have been to apply sporadic drips and splatters of paint.
…the juxtaposing of these objects seems impenetrable…
A number of reoccurring references run through the exhibition, and through close inspection, the viewer can pick these out. Some of these references are subtle, while others, such as the inexpensive reproductions of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the photographs of the artist herself, appear far more frequently. Yet, notwithstanding these points of cohesion, the logic behind the juxtaposing of these objects seems impenetrable, and their simple aesthetic of everyday materials hardly entices the viewer in for sustained contemplation. Instead, the exhibition’s visitors walk amongst a chaotic, and seemingly nonsensical, mix of disposable detritus that could have been sourced from any western consumer society over the last twenty years.
Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row
The exhibition runs from 15 November – 12 January 2013