Poetry reading by Christopher Knowles Friday, September 12th at 7pm
NoguerasBlanchard is very pleased to announce an exhibition of new works by American poet and artist Christopher Knowles (New York, 1959). Associated with the performing arts from early on in his career, Knowles collaborated with the theater productions of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass, notably in the experimental minimalist opera “Einstein on the Beach” (1976). Diagnosed as a child with an autism spectrum disorder, 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’. As Wilson has said: “everything about Christopher Knowles makes sense, but not in the way you are accustomed”.
The work of Christopher Knowles includes typewriter drawings, paintings and audio recordings, ranging from annotated lists of musical hits to rhythmic sentences and repetitions on phrases. His autistic condition determines these directional compositions, all accurately conceived within a pre-ordained self-supporting logic. With Knowles, nothing is the result of chance but on the contrary, his oeuvre belongs to a conscious and default distribution of signs that are translated into abstract or sometimes recognizable figures.
Both in his drawings and paintings Knowles develops a language that stems from a logical order and visual representation rather than narrative meaning. “I like to do the signature early, and work my way up and to the left”, he has said. As noted by his father, “We noticed he would start in one corner and paint all the reds that he was going to paint throughout the piece, and then he’d do all the blues, and so on. It meant he had the entire composition in his head already”. This procedure is easy to imagine when viewing his series of football scenes. Collapsing foreground and background into arrangements of interlocking shapes, the players seem to emerge from a patchwork of planes and colours. Another work that evidences the chromatic associations set in Knowles’ imagery is Untitled (2012), a black background at the centre of which we find four figures in red, white, yellow and green. A synthetic composition that takes the focus of the painting beyond its physical limits, by turning the characters into spectators of what is happening outside.
The works in this exhibition reflect Knowles’ peculiar poetic imagery – drawn mostly from autobiographical episodes – while engaging with other qualities of his creative work such as a preocupation with repetition, permutation and seriality. The image of a radiator showing the word “Beeeescope”, is also the title of one of his onomatopoeic poems, and is repeated here in two canvases of different sizes; an alarm clock that simultaneously strikes the hours of 12 and 6, indicating a dual or juxtaposed temporality. In some cases, the subject matter recalls themes he has explored in other formats, such as the audio recordings of his speech-poems. The work 11 Presidents of The United States of America (2009) consists of a list showing the names of the American presidents starting with Dwight Eisenhower, who held the presidency the year that Knowles was born. In one of his recordings of the late eighties the artist repeated for more than 10 minutes the name of this president while progressively changing his voice modulation. In other cases, the painting becomes minimal, as precise as his “typings”, where a bright and simple rainbow runs from side to side of the canvas.
Christopher Knowles lives and works in New York. In September 2015 he will have a solo show at the ICA, Philadelphia. Recent exhibitions include: Audio Works: ‘70’s – ‘80’s / Objects (a Simon and a few alarm clocks), Audio, Visual Arts, Nueva York (2014); The Sundance Kid is Beautiful, The Louvre Museum, París y PERFORMA 13, Nueva York (2014); Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York (2013); Correspondences, Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna (with Karl Holmqvist, curated by Matthew Higgs) (2009); Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York (2004). Between 1978 and 1979 several personal exhibitions earned him recognition in the New York avant-garde, including: Everyday Business, Open Eye Theater; Red and Green, About Earth & Universes: paintings by Christopher Knowles and Typing Work, both at Holly Solomon Gallery. Amongst group exhibitions: ‘Secret Codes’, Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo (2014); Merci Mercy, 980 Madison Avenue, New York (2013); Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, MoMA, New York (2012); En el primer cercle, Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona (2011); Poor. Old. Tired. Horse, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2009); Visions of the Frontier, curated by Robert Wilson, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (2009); Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); Get Lost: Artists Map Downtown New York, New Museum Project, New York (2007); Learn to Read, Tate Modern, London (2007); Extraordinary Rendition, NoguerasBlanchard, Barcelona (2007).
With many thanks to the collaboration of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York.