This past fall the Nasher Sculpture Center announced
German artist Isa Genzken as the fourth recipient of the Nasher Prize, a $100,000 award given annually to a living artist who is actively redefining the perception and possibilities of sculpture.
Past recipients have included Doris Salcedo, Pierre Huyghe, and Theaster Gates, each of whom has realized ambitious, socially
and environmentally driven projects that have turned sculpture into an experiential event.
But thus far no awardee has achieved the breadth and depth of Genzken, whose four-decade-long career spans multiple artistic movements and historic moments,
and begat the contemporary iteration of sculptural assemblage,
“The Nasher’s belief is that modern sculpture is characterized by extraordinary bursts of invention,” says Nasher Director Jeremy Strick.
“Genzken is someone who has done that within the confines of her own career, she’s also had tremendous impact on generations of younger artists.
In recent years assemblage has been at the forefront of contemporary sculptural practice and Genzken has been at the center of that.”
Born in 1948 in northern Germany, Genzken grew up in the aftermath of World War II, a period marked
by the reconstruction of bomb-ravaged cities and the reconciliation of a nation with its dark past, divided present, and seemingly bleak future.
Raised by self-described “art freaks,” Genzken was exposed to art and culture from an early age.
Her family relocated to the more cosmopolitan and capitalist West Berlin in 1960, the same year she first visited New York City.
The two cities have consistently informed her work.
Genzken went on to study art, art history, and philosophy at institutions in Hamburg,
Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys, and her future husband, painter-sculptor-photographer Gerhard Richter.
Growing up in such a dichotomous environment—between ruin and reconstruction—had a profound impact on Genzken.
Unimaginable numbers of the population were tragically dead or displaced, and those who remained experienced devastating food and housing shortages.
Germany’s urgent need to rebuild led to cityscapes punctuated by functional,
New York, as well as a prolific writer and curator,
contributed an interview with the artist for the publication.
In an excerpt from that interview, Obrist discusses Wood’s manifold influences, including his grandfather, who was an amateur painter and art collector;
the ceramic works of his wife, artist Shio Kusaka; baseball and basketball trading cards; source material from old books; and art collecting.
Jonas Wood (JW): My interest in ceramics comes from my wife, Shio Kusaka, who is a ceramicist.
When I started making still lifes, I was using her work as part of it, looking at pots with her,
It’s an object that tells a story.
It’s very similar to a painting, but it’s this threedimensional vessel.
HUO: You said that it’s like the baseball cards, the basketball cards
…They have a shape and form: fluid, graphic, simple. There are cartoons on the side of the pots.
JW: That’s where it all started.
It also connects to my wife because when we started going to museums together,
I would always look at just the paintings.
I think that I super-responded to the black and orange vessels at the Met.
“When I became a mother, that became a big focus of my work. I feel like I’m returning to those ideas right now.
Looking back on things I’ve experienced in my life and the political climate becoming more urgent has led to my work about the female experience.”
Buckman also explores the double standard regarding child rearing that expects mothers to take full parental responsibility while fathers tend to get societal points for watching over their progeny.
These, she says, are “the expectations of ours that need to be examined.” Buckman’s thoughtful work is more reflective than reactive.
It takes her about two years to create a new body of work, making it important to note that the Me Too movement dovetailed with her practice rather than informed it.
By the time Buckman finished this labor-intensive series, the ideas she began exploring became part of the public discourse.
It is more a function of coincidence, then, that her work seems to embody the current ethos of this larger cultural moment.
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