the artist as orchid thief

close up 2 petals

photo and copyright Phyllis Odessey

“I don’t know that name. “I am not familiar with that person at all. ”  “I have never heard of him…….. It’s a her?” These are responses to the question: who is Isa Genzken? It is also the opening of the film, This is Isa Genzken,  produced by MoMA for the Genzken restropestive in 2013.  The most publicly unknown artist of her generation: Genzken is a household name in the art world.  On Monday night at the New School,  Isa Genzken sat on the stage  with Randy Kennedy,(art critic for New York Times) Daniel Buchholz (friend and owner of Galerie Buchholz) and Nicholas Baume (Director of the Public Art Fund).


left to right, Buchholtz, Genzken and hidden from view, with mic in hand, Randy Kennedy Photograph by Peter N Mauss

Dressed in a bright yellow leather pants and matching motorcycle jacket, Genzken was barely able to communicate the simplest thought.  It was confounding.  Had Genzken been coerced into appearing? Did she think the idea of an artist discussing her work ludicrous? Or was she under some sort of duress, as she is known to suffer from alcoholism and bi-polar disorder? No matter the reason, it was painful to be in the audience.

Photography by Peter N. Mauss

Photograph by Peter N. Mauss Copyright Peter N Mauss

Most of the evening was spent showing a parade of unrealized work by Genzken. The work focused specifically on her  “architectural” proposals for outdoor sculpture in cities. Baume tried to frame the conversation around Genzken’s ideas:  how do people inhabit urban areas. At least that was Nicholas Baumes’ stated goal.  Genzken was unable to contribute much to this objective.  One of the few comments Genzken made that resonated with me, focused on her piece Rose l, which is almost the same as Rose II, which now resides in the garden at MoMA.

Rose II, in the MoMA garden. Photography and Copyright by Peter N Mauss

Rose II, in the MoMA garden. Photograph and Copyright by Peter N Mauss

Rose I sits in front of a turn of the century house in Baden-Baden Germany.  When asked why she choose a flower, especially a rose, which might be considered an exhausted cliche; Genzken with a twinkle in her eye,  responded:  “people love flowers… from the beginning to death.  The scale of Rose I, almost makes it look like it might be a genetic mistake.”


Photograph by Phyllis Odessey

close up petals with trees

Photograph by Phyllis Odessey

Photography by Peter N Mauss

Photograph by Peter N Mauss: Copyright Peter N Mauss

Two Orchids by Genzken stands at the entrance to Central Park.  It is a wonderful piece.   “I love to make public sculpture.  I like to go to the place and see what is missing there.  I want to do something people will love.”  I believe she has accomplished this goal.

Sign at Doris Friedman Plaza :
Isa Genzken
Two Orchids
March 1 – August 21, 2016

“Once a rare and exotic flower, the orchid has become one of the world’s most overall orchid sculptureubiquitous indoor plants.  From corporate offices to domestic interiors, from upscale florists to Home Depot, this tropical plant can now be seen anywhere – and acquired by anybody.  It’s a striking and decorative flower without any dominant symbolism, except perhaps a hint of luxury let over from the 19th century when orchids were since  seen as “the chosen ornaments of royalty.”

For eminent German artist Isa Gengken, the mass-produced white orchid has become the quintessential flower of our age: global, accessible and open to interpretation.  Rising to 28 and 34 feet respectively, the paired stems of Gengken’s towering sculpture wind elegantly skyward, capturing light and casting shadows in a play of rhyming forms.”

close up petals orchidsIn addition: The Orchid Show: ORCHIDELIRIUM
February 27 – April 17, 2016







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