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Casa Mastroianni, 

fiberglass reinforced concrete, ceramic
25 x 32 x 40 cm

Ceramic II, 

ceramic, glaze
38 x 28 x 29 cm

Ceramic III, 

ceramic, glaze
35 x 25 x 23 cm

Communicaten with the rotten Past XII, 

ceramic, glaze
70 x 50 x 39 cm

Communication With The Rotten Past I, 

ceramic, glaze, powder-coated metal
55 x 63 x 49 cm, 110 x 58 x 40 cm (plinth)

Communication With The Rotten Past II, 

ceramic, glaze, powder-coated metal
43 x 67 x 65 cm (ceramic), 110 x 68 x 58 cm (plinth)

Communication With The Rotten Past V, 

ceramic, glaze, powder-coated metal

Communication With The Rotten Past VII, 

ceramic, glaze
74,5 x 75,5 x 66,5 cm


20.11.2021 to 08.05.2022
MAMAC | Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain

Since 30 years, her work has questioned modern architecture as much as our natural environment. She most often works in situ. Her practice spans painting, embroidery, sculpture and integrates natural and vegetal world. Her work questions the complex and evolving relationship between humans and their environment.
Architecture plays a central role in Isa Melsheimer's work, particularly the forms and leading figures of modernism, notably Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, evoked in the exhibition through the paintings he created in 1938-39 on the walls of Eileen Grey's Villa E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.
For her exhibition at MAMAC, the artist delved into the rich history of the Côte d'Azur, a territory of experimentation in modern architecture which today leaves a legacy of villas, sometimes unsuspected, nestled in the heart of the hills and palm trees. This intertwined destiny of adventurous patrons, opened to the innovations of their time, and innovative architects, intersects with the imagination of an eternal Riviera and its desirable landscapes. The palm tree, although introduced during the 19th century (massive plantations of tropical species date back to the 1860s), at the time of the development of international winter tourism, appears today as an indigenous plant and a symbol of the French Riviera.
The artist proposes a hybridization of this dreamed and fantasized Riviera and the transformation of the shoreline due to the infestation of palm trees by the red weevil.
The gallery is transformed into an oniric and metamorphical landscape in which ceramics of the worms of the insect and evocations of modernist architecture intertwine, creating the perhaps fertile ground for a story to come.
Text: Hélène Guenin


27.03.2022 to 26.06.2022
Centre international d'art et du paysage Île de Vassivière

In a new series of large-scale ceramic works, Melsheimer draws inspiration from the plant Welwitschia mirabilis, which grows in the Namib desert of Namibia and Angola. Named after the first European to describe the plant in 1859, Welwitschia is inscribed within a legacy of 18th and 19th century European expeditions in which plant specimens were collected, taxonomized and added to botanical collections. In the case of Welwitschia, a double claiming thus occurred–of the plant itself and the right to name it.
Melsheimer’s pieces depict Welwitschia-like forms that gradually merge with architectural elements. With their tentacular leaves interweaving and gradually engulfing the built forms, the plants appear to merge with the architecture, perhaps enacting their own organizational principles and right to claim.
 The combined sculptural gesture of Melsheimer’s pieces, which gain in height as horizontal leaves intertwine with vertical walls, evokes another series of works with their own legacy of extraction and contested ownership: the Parthenon Marbles, now in the collection of the British Museum. Through this formal gesture Melsheimer makes oblique reference to the historic act of colonial acquisition and entitlement, as well as ongoing disputes over restitution.
 For the artist, this historical act of appropriation finds an echo in postmodernism, where stylistic or theoretical citations from the past are decontextualized and juxtaposed in new form; a renewal of appropriation as plunder.
 Melsheimer’s Metabolit sculptures (2019-20) are glazed ceramic forms that also combine organic and architectural elements. Leaf-like shoots are barely contained by their boxy surroundings. Bulbous concretions erupt from planar facades and cubic volumes, their mottled surfaces glistening and foaming as if still in motion. The result is a series of works in mutation: uncontainable, undisciplined forms exceeding imposed constraints.
 Other works in the exhibition tackle hubristic architectural and technological projects through the 20th and 21st centuries, positing that the grand narratives of modernism persist, and that ideologies and styles are rejected only to be revived anew.
 While some works seem to condemn our collective actions, especially in terms of our destructive relationship to the planet, other pieces display a more playful attitude. Small-scale ceramics and a series of stepped concrete forms bring the epic gestures and overarching narratives of modernism down to earth. Utopian architectural masterplans are reduced to ornamental planters and decorative household objects.
The ensemble of works in the exhibition suggests a reckoning with the legacies of modernism, as well as a recalibration of human relationships with the environment. Plants and other non-human species are shown to have their own potential for agency. Some works may be read as incursions of natural elements into manmade forms, or even menacing reactions to humans’ destructive ways. Conversely, these evolving states of engagement between organic and inorganic, between plant and manmade, are perhaps proposals for alternative forms of interaction: not antagonistic but rather hybrid or symbiotic. Melsheimer’s works suggest a type of multispecies kinship as defined by feminist theorist Donna Haraway: a making-with other entities, rather than self-making, in order to build more liveable futures together.
Text: Alexandra McIntosh

Concrete Garden, 

reinforced concrete, mirror, wood, paint, polystyrol hard foam, acrystal
240 × 450 × 150 cm

Continual Process of Improvement

30.03.2023 to 13.05.2023
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Wien

Utopian architectural models, housing structures made by animals, buildings made of organic materials: once the chain of associations has begun, Isa Melsheimer’s new ceramic works invoke a host of possible identifications, scales, stories, and purposes. We see them as buildings despite the fact that these sculptures have only a few features that clearly designate them as such. They oscillate between fragment and model, between made and grown, between artificial and natural, frozen under a glaze that reminds us of efflorescences, oxidized rock, lichen, or sedimentary strata. Crystalline forms and lamellar parts meet unarguably architectural elements, while openings on the sides allow a view into the inner life of their construction reminiscent of structural engineering. Some of the monumental ceramics are almost waist-high; others are stretched out horizontally. In their arrangement in small groups, they suggest different types of housing developments in urban and rural spaces.

At first glance, the ceramic works fit seamlessly into the artist’s long-term exploration of our built environment, the conditions of its development and the changes in how it is judged. In this environment, cultural tastes, the zeitgeist of society, technological feasibility, visions of urban planning, economic arguments, and political will are manifested. Although a building is ostensibly associated with consistency and permanence, it undergoes a continual change after it is completed – not only in regard to its material qualities and outer appearance, but also concerning its aesthetic assessment. Nonetheless, an aesthetic judgement is often still decisive in the decision-making process for a building and overrides other arguments, like functionality or practicability. This is the background for Melsheimer’s new ceramics, which for the first time do not reflect concrete buildings or architectural styles, unlike her sculptures based on buildings designed by the architects Werner Kallmorgen, Ulrich Müther, and Heinz Islar or those in her work series Communication with the Rotten Past. Instead, they are based on her investigation of animal architecture, building structures made by animals. These are, for the most part, not built according to aesthetic criteria, but must fulfill other functions. They are also remodeled and adapted when needed and thus reflect a topical issue in the current architectural discourse surrounding sustainability in which, under the theme of repair, adaptations, additions, alterations, or repairs take the place of new buildings. Possible marks of time also have their place here and can be made productive as embedded elements that provide new incentives. When understood as a continual process of improvement, architecture no longer adheres to the idea of a fixed solution and instead opens itself up to becoming an architectural act that potentially is never finished.

Just as future demands on a building are unforeseeable, so are the actors who will someday react to it through adaptations and hence become co-creators. In their hybrid appearance located somewhere between model-like experimental arrangements of human dwellings and housing structures made by other creatures – or between human-made, animal-made, and grown – the ceramics suggest that this architectural process is located in a world that is no longer anthropogenic. Rather, the artist seems to be thinking about Donna Haraway’s age of the Chthulucene in which all possible species and creatures can exist and act collaboratively. Architecture in the Chthulucene would not be completed in terms of time or form and, as a sediment, would be a genuinely sculptural process, because it is additive. By incorporating non-human organisms, it would unveil previously unknown aesthetics, materials, and ideas of what constitutes a work. Isa Melsheimer’s ceramics hint at where this journey could take us.
Text: Verena Gamper


11.07.2004 to 03.10.2004
Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht

Curtain (COMPOST), 

fabric, pearls
295 x 500 cm

Curtain (Moon), 

fabric, thread
320 x 300cm