Imi Knoebel

Dec 11 – Feb 19 2011

von Bartha, Basel

From the begin­ning, Imi Knoe­bel con­sis­tently applied a rad­i­cal reduc­tion of form. This reduc­tion can already be seen in his lin­ear images which mark the begin­ning of his artis­tic career and were dis­played for the first time at the Düs­sel­dorf Acad­emy in 1967/68. They were fol­lowed by the colour field images, which have formed the core of his work up to this day. “Imi Knoebel – Selected Works” held at the von Bartha Garage is a ret­ro­spec­tive and high­lights the impres­sive con– sis­tency with which Knoebel has been work­ing since the late 1960s on the same ele­men­tary ques­tions – from his ear­li­est lin­ear images until today. “In his lin­ear images, Imi Knoebel describes him­self as look­ing for the begin­ning, which has noth­ing of the cer­tainty of a pure rectangle’s right angles. Knoebel took the most obvi­ous shape, the square, with which he invoked his first impres­sion of art, the Black Square by Kasimir Malewitsch.”* A lot was already present in his lin­ear images which has dis­tin­guished Knoebel’s work until today. Ulti­mately, black and white delin­eate noth­ing but outer bound­aries of the colour palette. Between these two poles of black and white, there are many colour gra­da­tions. Observ­ing some of his newer works (such as “OOMMM”, 2002 or “MOLANI”, 2010) it becomes clear that all the ele­ments already existed from the begin­ning – the geo­met­ric struc­ture, the grid, the sim­ple super­po­si­tion of plane (base) and line (struc­ture). How­ever, this obser­va­tion does not mean that Knoebel’s oeu­vre does not know vari­a­tion. In his ply­wood images (“OTTERLO IV”, 1985) Knoebel’s affin­ity for sen­si­tive aes­thet­ics for mate­ri­als and for spa­tial sculp­tural objects becomes clear. The recur­ring con­fronta­tion with the (exhibition-) space is one aspect, with which Knoebel dared to go beyond the sur­face plane of the painting. Today a young gen­er­a­tion of artists are once again increas­ingly devot­ing them­selves to the intel­lec­tual and aes­thetic sub­si­dence of Moder­nity. Given this cur­rent recon­sid­er­a­tion, Knoebel’s approach is even more impres­sive because he has been ques­tion­ing shape and colour for over four decades. Supre­ma­tism, Min­i­mal Art, De Stijl, Bar­nett New­man and Alexey von Jawlen­sky… All of these styles and oth­ers and their pro­tag­o­nists can be suc­cess­fully found In Knoebel’s works. How­ever, Knoebel does not copy; he quotes and plays with the quo­ta­tions. He goes a step fur­ther than his role mod­els; he deals with them – some­times beyond recog­ni­tion. In this sense, he has always remained a seeker, who with all con­sis­tency accepted a few of the most press­ing and fun­da­men­tal ques­tions of paint­ing and the visual arts in gen­eral. Not pri­mar­ily to pro­vide answers but to raise new questions. Text: Reto Thüring

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