With a career spanning four decades, Isa Genzken has continually reinvented the language of sculpture, creating objects inspired by popular culture and historic events that explore the complexities of contemporary realism. Engaging a diverse range of media—such as wood, plaster, concrete, textiles, and detritus—and working in a variety of modes, including photography, filmmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, and collage—Genzken transforms vernacular materials into wholly unique forms, culling from everyday culture, including design, consumer goods, the media, architecture and urban environments. Her inventive, ad-hoc approach to making, as well as her fearless embrace of chaos and change has inspired a generation of artists, even as she continues to adapt, expand, and redefine her protean oeuvre.
The artist’s interest lies in the ways in which common aesthetic styles come to illustrate and embody contemporary political and social ideologies. Born in 1948 in Bad Oldesloe, Germany, Genzken is part of a generation of postwar German artists who inherited a fraught national history. While some artists turned to abstraction to avoid the subject of Germany’s past atrocities, others, such as Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke, and Genzken, confronted the traumas and aftermath of World War II by creating works that emphasized material culture and incorporated elements of Pop art and American Minimalism. Throughout her career, she has continually pushed the boundaries of sculpture, engaging with its histories while utilizing contemporary elements and ideas.
“We’d be hard pressed to name an artist with a more textured and dynamic sculptural practice than Isa Gensken,” says Nasher Director Jeremy Strick. “Her work not only straddles an array of forms that complicate and enrich our understanding of sculpture, she also consistently challenges the way an artist’s career and oeuvre might look, breaking apart the notion of specialization within an individual studio practice. Her work can feel utterly urgent and visceral—fraught with emotion—while at other times, objects are rendered with such precision as to seem free of human touch. This range of material and conceptual rigor has positioned Genzken as a major influence on younger generations of artists working today amid the clamor of the digital age, offering permission and encouragement to subvert norms and invent new possibilities.”
Isa Genzken was selected for the Nasher Prize in recognition of her remarkable work by an international jury of museum directors, curators, artists, and art historians who demonstrate unparalleled expertise in the field of sculpture. She will be presented with an award designed by Renzo Piano, architect of the Nasher Sculpture Center, at a ceremony in Dallas on April 6, 2019.
The 2019 Nasher Prize jurors are Phyllida Barlow, artist; Huma Bhabha, artist; Pablo León de la Barra, Curator at Large, Latin America, Guggenheim Museum; Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator, National Gallery of Art; Okwui Enwezor, Director, Haus der Kunst, 2011-2018; Briony Fer, Professor, History of Art, University College London; Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; Hou Hanru, Artistic Director, MAXXI, Rome; and Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England.
“Isa Genzken makes work that retains its spontaneity right to the last. She uses an extraordinarily diverse range of materials and forms, so there is a continuous unpredictability as to what the next body of work might and can be,” says Nasher Prize juror, Phyllida Barlow. “The work is always evolving and therefore her influence is exceptional on artists of all ages.”
Nasher Prize juror Pablo León de la Barra says, “I’m very impressed by the influence her work has had on younger generations, and how it continues to spark questions and inform thought on what sculpture could be today.”
In conjunction with the Nasher Prize, the Nasher Sculpture Center annually presents a series of public programs exploring the climate of contemporary sculpture. Called Nasher Prize Dialogues, the talks gather interdisciplinary luminaries to discuss the most compelling topics regarding contemporary sculpture. By galvanizing international discourse, Nasher Prize Dialogues are an apt extension of the Nasher Prize’s mission to advocate for and advance a vital contemporary art form. The most recent talks have taken place in Reykjavík, Iceland in partnership with the Reykjavík Art Museum; in Glasgow, UK in partnership with The Common Guild and Glasgow International 2018; and in Dallas in partnership with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Past Nasher Prize Laureates include Doris Salcedo (2016), Pierre Huyghe (2017), and Theaster Gates (2018).
The 2019 Nasher Prize is generously co-chaired by John Dayton and Fanchon and Howard Hallam, who help garner support for the prize and its attendant programs, including the Nasher Prize Dialogues.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is the presenting sponsor of the Nasher Prize.
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