Imi Knoebel — Retrospective 1968–1996

EXHIBITION 23.08 – 20.10.96

Born in 1940 in Dessau Imi Knoebel is one of the most important German painters of the generation after Joseph Beuys. Spanning three decades, Knoebel's work can be attributed to Minimalism, although the limited art-historical term cannot full express his variety of genres, the work's  simultaneously geometric and gestural elements, and the richness of its colors and materials. As the artist's first major retrospective, the exhibition presents all the major phases of his work.    

Knoebel's oeuvre is influenced by Russian avant-garde art, Neo-Constructivism and "monochromism".  In the early 1960s at the school of applied arts in Darmstadt, Knoebel and his artist friend Rainer Giese (1942–1974) adopted the pseudonyms Imi, a mixture of a Dadaist logo and ironic pop gesture: the eponymous common East German laundry detergent – "a guarantee for uncompromising purity" – served the artist duo Imi + Imi as a motto for the radical claim of their artistic ideas.

In 1964 Knoebel entered Joseph Beuys's class at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Knoebel’s notion of art, like that of his friends and fellow artists Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and  Blinky Palermo, was influenced by the political optimism of the time. One of his first works was "Raum 19" (Room 19) (1968), named after his studio at the academy. This central work was a spatial installation made out of hardboard and stretchers, a kind of three-dimensional painting that contradicted the usual ideas of a painting and sculpture, and attested to Knoebel's interest in the production process and de-limitations of the painted image. Here, the idea of Kazimir Malevich's radically reduced pictorial language intersect with Beuys's procedural-sculptural ideas.

In the 1970s Knoebel disassociated himself from his earlier work's right-angled and primarily colorless purism. Furthermore, in search of a synthesis of all visual forces, he transcended genre boundaries between painting, sculpture, and spatial installations. His wall objects' polygonal color forms seem to float in a limitless pictorial space on the white wall. This, too, represents a continuation of ideas of the Russian avant-garde. 

In "Genter Raum" (Room in Ghent) (1980) Knoebel combines the idea of "Room 19" with that of his free color form elements. Here, 461 colored and non-colored pieces of irregularly cut wood produce stacked and layered building blocks of a both complete and completing visual arrangement, and consolidate into a metaphor for "making art".

The 1980s were marked by an intense examination of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue, plus white. The artist's studio resembled a laboratory for color in which he explored the endless possibilities of their combinations with near-scientific precision. There was always room for free associations, which characterized the pastel colored portrait series of the 1990s. In the series dedicated to Grace Kelly, calculation and randomness, severity and tenderness join to create compositions of perfect beauty.  

Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi
Imi Knoebel – Retrospective 1968–1996, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 1996, photo Wilfried Petzi

Stretch your view


Stretch your view


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