Isa Genzken: German Pavilion, Venice 2007

Isa Genzken: German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2007 edited by Nicolaus Schafhausen. Dumont. Hardcover, 211 pages. $45.

The cover of Isa Genzken: German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2007

It’s difficult to describe the complexity of Isa Genzken’s installation, titled Oil, created for the German pavilion at this summer’s Venice Biennale. The work is a jangle of mixed sculptures—and mixed messages—inside the long-freighted structure with its overdetermined history. Genzken even framed the pavilion itself in the work, placing an ersatz della Robbia on its facade and veiling the building with orange construction-site material. Inside, the artist’s sculptures—from an arrangement of suitcases with images of dogs slapped onto them to the uncanny “Young Astronauts” lying on the floor—commented on postwar Germany and the United States while formally engaging the very physical reality of gravity and free fall. For those who didn’t make it to Venice, there’s fortunately this lovely, vibrantly illustrated monograph dedicated to the installation. In addition to essays by artists and critics, the catalogue includes a jaunty conversation between Genzken and the pavilion’s curator, Nicolaus Schafhausen.