In early February I visited San Diego for the first time, and of course I made sure to check out one of their major museums, the San Diego Museum of Art. Seated within Balboa Park, a sprawling space with hiking trails, a golf course, a country club, restaurants, and several museums, SDMA offers a range of arts primarily from the Western and East Asian regions, as well as the Pacific Islands and Africa. Accompanied by my mom, I wandered through most of the museum’s galleries, taking in works from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries, as well as the temporary exhibition Women, War, and Industry (now closed).
With a career spanning nearly forty years (and counting) and a body of work notable for both its breadth and variety, Isa Genzken is an artist well worth a look. Her current show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is a compelling retrospective, covering everything from her early minimalist sculpture and miniature assemblages to her street photography and memorial designs for the World Trade Center. Born and raised in Germany, Genzken has primarily worked in Cologne and Berlin, with some stints in New York. She studied under painter Gerhard Richter at the Dusseldorf Fine Arts Academy, and the two were married for a time after she graduated.
The human body as a subject has long fascinated visual artists. It has fallen prey to distortion and monstrosity, to sexualization and idolization, and so many other representations. In the 1970s many artists involved in the rising feminist movement turned to the female form as a symbol of oppression as well as power, some referencing Mother Earth metaphors and others satirizing 1950s domesticity and feminized consumerism. It became easy for any woman artist to be labeled “feminist” (a dirty word to many) regardless of her actual intentions or activism.