Christopher Knowles (New York, 1959) played a significant role in the late 1970s New York avant-garde: as an artist he exhibited with Holly Solomon and as a performer he collaborated with theatre director and playwright Robert Wilson. In fact part of the libretto of the world-famous opera “Einstein on the Beach” was written by Knowles. Wilson and Knowles have collaborated subsequently, most notably through theatrical experiments like “A Letter to Queen Victoria”, “Parsifal” and “The Sundance Kid is Beautiful”.

Wilson describes his discovery of the then 13-year-old Knowles: “In early 1973 a man … gave me an audio tape … I was fascinated. The tape was entitled “Emily Likes the TV”. On it a young man’s voice spoke continuously creating repetitions and variations on phrases about Emily watching the TV. I began to realize that the words flowed to a patterned rhythm whose logic was self-supporting. It was a piece coded much like music. Like a cantata or a fugue, it worked with conjugations of thoughts repeated in variations; I knew it was clear in his mind, but I couldn’t follow it, so I transcribed the text, and it was visually stunning.”
Knowles’s poetry, audio collages, and typings show how language serves not only as our gateway to the subconscious, where words play their anxious, fractious, and sometimes joyful games, but also the key to communicating with the other people who help us articulate who we are. Knowles was already a master of language when that early audio collage was handed to Wilson in 1973, and in fact, Knowles can be considered a true heir to that great American writer who put standard English on notice—Gertrude Stein.

Knowles was diagnosed early on as an autistic, and he did not receive a formal artistic education- instead, he came to the inventive rhythms of language through various everyday means like radio, TV, music, etc.

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Selected works

Untitled (red hot sun, blue cold moon)

n.d.
Marker on paper
28.3 × 23.4 × 2.6 cm (11 18 × 9 732 × 1 132 inches)

Untitled (Cherry Bomb Blockbuster)

Circa 1980
Typing on paper
33 × 26.5 × 2 cm (13 × 10 716 × 2532 inches)

Untitled (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)

Circa 1980
Typing on paper
33 × 26.5 × 2 cm (13 × 10 716 × 2532 inches)

Typing-100

Circa 1980
Typing on paper
33 × 26.5 × 2 cm (13 × 10 716 × 2532 inches)

Typing-2

Circa 1980
Typing on paper
33 × 26.5 × 2 cm (13 × 10 716 × 2532 inches)

Untitled (Letter for Queen Victoria, Sao Paolo)

n.d.
Marker on paper

Installation

The Sundance Kid is Beautiful

2013
PERFORMA 13
Whitebox Art Center
New York

The Sundance Kid is Beautiful

2013
PERFORMA 13
Whitebox Art Center
New York

Poor. Old. Tired. Horse

2009
Institute of Contemporary Arts
London

Learn to Read

2007
Tate Modern
London

Christopher Knowles

2013
Gavin Brown’s enterprise
New York

Christopher Knowles

2004
Gavin Brown’s enterprise
New York

These are the Days

2020
Kunstverein Langenhage
Hannover

Exhibitions

New Paintings

Madrid
Sep 11 - Nov 08, 2014

Knowles was one of the key figures of the late 1970s New York avant-garde where he became known for his poetry readings and ‘typings’.

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The Story Behind | Typing

Barcelona
Oct 17 - Nov 22, 2013

Knowles’ oeuvre belongs to a conscious and default distribution of signs that are translated into abstract or sometimes recognizable figures.

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Extraordinary Rendition

Barcelona
Mar 22 - May 19, 2007

Curated by Latitudes (Max Andrews & Mariana Cánepa Luna)

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Receive information on available works by Christopher Knowles
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