Isa Genzken “Bouquet” 2004
plastic, wood, lacquer, mirror foil, glass
“A kind of artistic bag lady.” That’s how one French critic described sculptor Isa Genzken. Her “bricollage of materials and manners, idioms and styles creates a willful and bewildering confusion.”
An English critic went further. He saw the artist’s work in the context of what he calls “the one insurmountable fact” about her, “that Genzken suffers from prolonged periods of mental ill-health.”
Isa Genzken, “Abendmahl (Last Supper),” 2008
Aluminum plate, mirror foil, spray-paint, tape, color print on paper
What? An artist making work whose meaning you can’t “always grasp”? She must be nuts! Whatever Genzken’s difficulties, the “ungraspable” quality of an artwork hardly qualifies as a reason to get out the butterfly nets.
Picasso, Homme á la Pipe (Le Fumeur), 1914
Picasso did it with swagger (and of course glue). Around 1912 he stole the pasted-paper idea from Braque. “After having made the papier collés, I felt a great shock,” said Braque, “and it was an even greater shock to Picasso when I showed it to him.”
But where the other cubist had used art-ready cut papers, Picasso scavenged. Sheet music, newspaper scraps, the label from a packet of tobacco, cloth. The contrast of the real stuff with the painted forms was new. For the collage above, Homme á la Pipe (Le Fumeur), 1914, he ripped a piece of the old wallpaper off his studio wall and stuck it on the canvas. Warch a short MOMA video about the materials in Picasso’s early collages here.
“Stuck on you.” At the time, in France, collage was slang for “living in sin.” In his excellent Collage; The Making of Modern Art, Brandon Taylor says that Picasso’s early collages provoked a “frisson of excitement at the sight of a coupling…illicit…at the very limits of aesthetic decency.”