Christopher Knowles

The Story Behind | Typing

NoguerasBlanchard, Barcelona
Oct 17 - Nov 22, 2013
Curated by Direlia Lazo

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

NoguerasBlanchard is very pleased to present an exhibition by Christopher Knowles (New York, 1959) in the gallery’s space in Barcelona. Knowles’ project “Typing” is the fifth presentation within the exhibition programme the Story Behind, curated by Direlia Lazo. Previous presentations included works by Lisa Oppenheim, Haris Epaminonda, Tatiana Mesa and Francesco Arena.

Much of contemporary art is recreated in the story about itself, narratives that mediate between the work and the viewer either to convey the artist’s intention, explain the working process that underlies the images, or reveal deliberate and purposeful interpretations. Many artists use art to experiment with the modalities and mechanisms of storytelling; to narrate, to recount, to explain the interpretive universe surrounding our direct experience becomes another feature of these works. The Story Behind presents a group of works where stories, whether fictional or real, manifest and embody that oral and parallel world that accompanies the images.

Playwright and American theatre director Robert Wilson has said: “everything about Christopher Knowles makes sense, but not in the way you are accustomed”. Diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, Knowles was one of the key figures of the late 1970s New York avant-garde, thanks in part to his frequent collaboration with Wilson’s key theatrical productions.

The work of Christopher Knowles includes typewriter drawings, paintings and audio recordings ranging from annotated lists of musical hits to rhythmic sentences and repetitions composed by himself. His autistic condition determines these directional compositions. 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. On one hand, the recordings reveal another edge of the vast universe of obsessions that nourishes his genius: repetition. In one of the audio works, Knowles reiterates for more than 10 minutes the name of US President Dwight Eisenhower. During the first part of this sound piece, the repetition is almost mimetic, with paused and linear intonation, pronounced with an almost ceremonial tone. However, as it progresses the modulation of the voice varies to a more casual tone, introducing other information and eventually some hints of humour. In 1978 John Ashbery wrote in New York Magazine about Knowles’ first personal exhibition: “it seems that Christopher (Knowles) is giving the world a necessary lesson: that in art it is possible to be negligent and rigorous at the same time.”

This exploration of the repetitive also occurs in his intricate drawings – known as “typings” – made mainly during the 1970s and 1980s. These works source episodes of his daily life through words and phrases, sometimes poems, or also detailed geometric patterns based on the letter “c”, initial of his name. The trichromatic “typings” by Knowles, some of them included in this presentation, were regularly published in contemporary newspapers, magazines and catalogues and are considered historical pieces.

Christopher Knowles lives and works in New York.

Recent exhibitions include: 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: 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).

We kindly thank Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Nueva York for its co-operation.

Read more