Isa Genzken


Ohr (Ear), 1980
Chromogenic color print, 69 x 46 1/2” (175.3 x 118.1 cm)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin © ISA GENZKEN

This photograph by German artist ISA GENZKEN entitled Ohr (Ear) (1980) is from a series of photographs that she made in 1980 in New York asking women on the street if she could photograph their ear. Around this time, GENZKEN also made a group of works by photographing and enlarging advertisements for stereo systems from American, French, German, and Japanese magazines. She has often installed her photographs of hi-fi stereo equipment, in juxtaposition with her ear photographs and her Hyperbolo and Ellipsoid sculptures, likening the engineering of a state-of-the-art stereo system both to the intricate shape of the human ear and to the precision modeling of her sculptures.

I think that photography has a lot to do with sculpture – because it is three-dimensional and because it depicts reality. For example, I have always been able to relate to photography more than to painting. When I was photographing the hi-fi adverts I thought to myself, everyone has one of these towers at home. It’s the latest thing, the most modern equipment available. So a sculpture must be at least as modern and must stand up to it. Then I hung the pictures on the wall and put an ellipsoid  on the floor and thought, the ellipsoid must be at least as good as this advert. At least as good. That’s how good a modern sculpture has to be. Do you see what I mean? That was the dialogue… – ISA GENZKEN in conversation with WOLFGANG TILLMANS, Camera Austria 2003

Good news: the first comprehensive retrospective of GENZKEN‘s work in an American museum, is currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


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