Isa Genzken (b.1948)
signed, titled and dated 'Guardini Isa Genzken 1987' (on the underside of the stand)
concrete and steel
89 x 31 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (226 x 81 x 46 cm.)
Executed in 1987.
Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

In 1986 Isa Genzken's architectural references switched from the 1910s, 20s and 30rd to the 1950s, 60s and 70s--the heyday of exposed concrete architecture. Le Corbusier ushered in this new era with l'Unité d'Habitation in Marseille in 1952. Among its most innovative features were its flashes of color. Unlike earlier International Style architecture, this massive structure disproved the myth that exposed concrete was a mark of deprivation by revealing the inherent beauty of the material.

On a simple, high support, Guardini plays out an undoing and a redoing of sculpture before our eyes. Just as the lingua franca of sculpture had become floor-bound, Genzken put things back on stands that brought them to eye level, only to present you with something more like a sub-object, or an object in ruins, than a sculpture. It is not a model of a real space, but rather questions all of our ideas about architecture in general: what defines a space, what defines the closure of a space, what is a wall, how are walls connected to each other? In response to these questions, Genzken designs quite simple examples of spaces based on a rectangular ground plan, enclosed by tall, windowless concrete walls.

Cued by late Minimalism, Genzken has always explored the relations between sculpture and the social space of architecture, with references to everyday lived experience intruding on her formal experiments. The closest forebears of the present example are Bruce Nauman's resin sculptures, begun in 1965, which also bore the traces of the casting processes used to make them, and whose own rough beauty contradicted the machine aesthetics of Minimalism.

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