The work of Imi Knoebel, who was born in 1940 and lives in Dtisseldorf, spans more than five decades. An outstanding representative of resolutely non-objective painting, Knoebel's goal from the beginning has been to break the genre's boundaries and conquer space. He studied at the Dtisseldorf Art Academy in the class of Joseph Beuys and—together with Rainer Giese—earned the right to use the legendary Room 19, which became an experimentation space for the two young artists. They read Kasimir Malevich's work The Non-Objective World: The Manifesto of Suprematism, and were inspired by his ideas, and both adopted the first name IMI. It was in the context of Raum 19 that Knoebel created his eponymous 1968 installation of smooth, sealed hardboard, which recalled virgin painting surfaces.
Another important reference for Knoebel was a fellow student in Beuys' class, Blinky Palermo, a colorist. After Palermo's untimely death, Knoebel—who until then had worked mainly in black and white—took up Palermo's legacy and began to employ color. His first colored works were the hard-fiber paintings executed in red lead, a rust-proofing agent. By 1977, however, he was using the entire palette. Filled with an unimaginable number of color samples, Knoebel's studio in Dtisseldorf today resembles an experimental laboratory for color constellations.
The Sammlung Goetz, which includes nearly 40 works by the artist from five decades, is honoring the “young-at-heart old master of radically non-objective painting” with a retrospective exhibition. The show was organized in close collaboration with Imi Knoebel and his wife Carmen; together with curator Karsten Lockemann, 18 works were selected from the Sammlung Goetz and supplemented with 16 works from the artist's own collection. A chronological or thematic presentation was intentionally rejected. Instead, the presentation focuses on cross-references that reveal formal and thematic connections within Knoebel's artistic oeuvre. “After all, I always return to the beginnings in my work, even today, and connect everything,” Knoebel explained in an interview.
The earliest work in the exhibition is the 20-part series Projektion with black-and-white photographs from 1968. Knoebel used a slide projector to project geometric shapes—such as lines, crosses and squares—into the outdoor space; he then photographed the images and assembled them into a tableau. Knoebel has been interested in the cross as a geometric form since reading Malevich's manifesto, and it is part of the artist's set vocabulary of forms. It appears in the exhibition, for example, in the two-part painted object WS I (2010).
Another persistent practice in Knoebel's work is also evident here: the superimposition of forms and color. In a reduced, minimalist way, this principle is also apparent in his so-called Sandwich Bilder from 2002, a series that consists of several plywood panels painted with acrylic paints that he then joined together. The spectrum of colors used in the works is visible only on the edges.
The exploration of space is also an important constant in the artist's work: from the projections and the wall object 16 Farben auf Blanc de titane (1993), for which Knoebel stacked painted metal strips on top of each other, to Weiss Schwarz 11 (2010), a minimalistlooking painting that appears three-dimensional, to Ort-Rosa (2013), which also asserts itself physically.
Knoebel's joy of experimentation has been a constant companion. This is evident not only in his enormous variety of different color combinations, but also in the artist's use of different materials. The exhibition includes, for example, paintings on hardboard, plywood and aluminum, as well as objects made of cast concrete.
The collector Ingvild Goetz has followed the artist on all these paths. She acquired her first works by the artist the Sammlung Goetz was established and displayed them in its opening exhibition in 1993. Knoebel has been represented in numerous group shows at the Sammlung Goetz, such as When Now Is Minimal (2013 and 2014) and FarbRaumKörper (2017). The current exhibition, planned in celebration of the artist's 80th birthday, is his first solo show at the Sammlung Goetz.
A catalog, which includes installation images, an introductory essay and an annotated catalogue raisonne of the artist's works in the Sammlung Goetz, is planned.