Imi Knoebel is one of the most celebrated painters working anywhere in the world today. His work has been the subject of major surveys including Works 1966-2014 at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in 2015, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Hamburger Banhof in Berlin and the Neue Nationalgalerie 2009 in Berlin. Large-scale installations are held in the collection of the DIA Foundation, NY and in MoMA, NYC and in many major museums throughout Europe.
In 2011 he was commissioned to make six stained-glass windows for the apse of the Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral. This extraordinary work was unveiled in 2011.
Though fundamentally a painter, Knoebel’s work has long resisted a conventional approach to form and material preferring the possibilities that aluminium and wood offer to him for building supports that expand the platform for his chromatic adventures.
[Knoebel] once refused to work in anything other than black and white… but… When [artist friend Blinky Palermo] died in the Maldives in 1977… Knoebel paid tribute to him with his 24 Colors for Blinky series. Since then, colour has been his driving force.
– Connolly, Kate
In Knoebel’s hometown of Dusseldorf, housed in the collection of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is Mondrian’s New York City I, 1941 (unfinished). With all its evidence of re-positioning of its lattice and adjustments to colour this magnificent work perhaps points to the possibilities that a more substantial version of collage might offer Knoebel.
Freed from the more essentialist, theosophical weight of de Stijl, Knoebel’s grids are more playful, more happily erratic. Though Knoebel himself has made important works using only red, yellow and blue, most often his palette is anything but restricted, allowing for the most compelling collisions of structure, colour and brushstroke along the multiple edges on offer.
Knoebel’s predilection for ‘heavy-duty’ collage has long been evident in major early works including Genter Raum, 1980, Collection of Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and his ‘fibreboard’ Raum 19, 1968 which was presented in the Beuys, Knoebel, Palermo exhibition at DIA Art Foundation, New York 1987. Raum 19’s only colour is that inherent in the chosen material, but the piece has a subtle tonality, both because of the naturally occurring variations in that material and the complex play of light and shadow across its multiple forms.
Despite this relentless urge to encourage painting off the wall, something Knoebel continues to do, he remains committed to the act of painting – colour, material and touch are far from obsolete.
The galleries have been privileged to work quietly with Imi Knoebel since 2000, exhibiting both paintings and works on paper. In 2019 the gallery presented major paintings from multiple series, including the heroic Cut-Up works, through to the intimacy of the Anima Mundi “portraits” and the newest series of shaped aluminium paintings seductively titled Big Girls.
German artist Imi Knoebel was born Klaus Wolf Knoebel in Dessau (1940). He studied at art school in Darmstadt in 1962, where he met Rainer Geise. Together Geise and Knoebel formed the name Imi&Imi, a loose abbreviation for “I with him”. Knoebel went on to study at Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1964-1971 under Joseph Bueys. Now, Knoebel is based in Dusseldorf.
Although initially Knoebel was committed to a palette of black and white, he changed this at the death of his friend and fellow artist Blinky Palermo, to whom he dedicated a colour series ‘24 colors for Blinky.’ Since then, Knoebel has been using colour in his practice.
Imi Knoebel – Anima Mundi 34-2, 2011, Dep Art Gallery Milan