Alexandra Bircken is a sculptor known for her objects and installations that incorporate an unusual range of materials: from everyday objects such as hair-dye packaging, rocking horses and sawn-up motorcycles, through textiles in handmade and machine-processed form to organic matter such as wood, leather, bones, or even a placenta. Anything that surrounds us can become a sculptural medium. Her approach is characterized by an examination of the human body, its needs, desires, and relationship to its environment. Highly topical questions such as the need for protection of the individual, gender identity in its ambivalence, and the relationship between humans and machines are taken up and thematized in Bircken’s sculptures.
Conceived in close collaboration with the Museum Brandhorst in Munich and its curator Monika Bayer-Wermuth, the exhibition A–Z is presented as a sculptural vocabulary assembling more than sixty works, grouped according to formal and thematic similarities. For over 20 years, certain gestures and motifs have been regularly reappearing in the work of Alexandra Bircken. The exhibition presents the threads that have been running through it since the early 2000s.
Today Bircken is internationally renowned in contemporary sculpture. But she arrived at the visual arts via a circuitous route. By the time she became known as an artist in 2003, she already had a career in fashion under her belt. In the early 1990s, she was awarded a coveted place on the fashion course at Central Saint Martins College in London and subsequently established herself in the field: first with her own fashion label, followed by a position as a designer in Paris. In the early 2000s, she began to experiment more freely with textiles – leading to the creation of her first sculptures. She was living in Cologne at the time, and the art scene there quickly took notice of her. National and international monographic shows and participation in important group exhibitions soon followed, including “Un monumental” at the New Museum in New York in 2007, “Skulpturales Handeln” at the Haus der Kunst in Munich in 2011, and “Material Encounters” at The Hepworth Wakefield in 2019, to name but a few.
Bircken has played a significant role in shaping central themes of sculpture since the 2000s. Updating concepts and approaches first explored in Arte Povera and textile art, Birken expands them to include questions of technology, albeit with an analogue approach. Bircken has taught at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich since 2018, where she holds a professorship in sculpture.
This exhibition is the largest solo show of the 1967 Cologne-born artist and brings together works from throughout her practice: from the first sculpture completed in Bircken’s store-front studio “Alex” in Cologne in 2003 to more recent installations. Rather than proceeding chronologically, this show uses themes and formal concepts to progress through the artist’s oeuvre, attempting to capture her sculptural repertoire of forms from “A–Z”: from Bircken’s exploration of textiles to the relationship of the human body to its environment and to her vibrant and organic seeming machines.