Isa Genzken came of age in Germany during the aftermath of World War II . Her childhood experiences of reconstruction- era housing developments and emerging consumerism have informed her artistic output since she embarked on her career in the early 1970s. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Genzken lived and worked amid the vibrant international art scene in the German Rhineland, where she studied—and later also taught—at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. Although her art from the 1980s and ’90s continued to reflect European and American currents of minimalism and conceptual art, her more recent work has grown increasingly detached from the influence of others to redefine the genre of assemblage art for a whole generation of younger artists. Despite their formal variety, Genzken’s idiosyncratic sculptures evoke to cinema’s narrativity and photography’s realism: her works consistently mobilize the gaze of the viewer and often incorporate everyday objects. Extreme perspectives and distorted sizes, on the other hand, reveal Manhattan’s influence on the artist’s imagination.
Over the past few decades Genzken has developed a substantial number of outdoor works, several of which she presents in Realized and Unrealized Outdoor Projects at the Biennale di Venezia. Sometimes for those sculptures she used existing buildings as a scaffold, as in the case of Ohr (2002) and Rose II (2007–2008). Other works, including Atelierfenster (1999), epitomize the artist’s characteristic strategy of isolating and decontextualizing architectural forms. While her scale models are notable for their monumentality, the full-size sculptures are equally striking for their delicacy. Genzken has made large-scale sculptures of flowers since 1988. In the Giardini she presents Orchideen (2015), a sculpture of two monumental orchids. By enlarging the blooms to architectural proportions, she corrects what she considers the great mistake of Bauhaus: the fact that its “formalism disdained the beauty of flowers.”