"Explosion of Color at Unter den Linden"
The Press on Imi Knoebel at the Deutsche Guggenheim
Parallel to his installations "Zu Hilfe, zu Hilfe…" at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Deutsche Guggenheim also takes stock of Imi Knoebel's current work in "ICH NICHT/ENDUROS." The two-part exhibition first presents new wall and spatial works, followed by over 200 works on paper from the Deutsche Bank Collection. The press celebrates Knoebel as a "mythical icon of West German art history."
"It's Knoebel summer in Berlin," declares Monopol, while Vernissage TV reports that the two Knoebel exhibitions provide art lovers with a great excuse to travel to the German capital. According to Niklas Maak of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in an "act of productive vandalism," the "purist of color" (Focus) has radically transformed the Nationalgalerie by covering the glass of the Mies van der Rohe building in white paint. In doing so, Knoebel unites "the two greatest movements of post-war modernism by covering the industrial, clinically smooth architecture (…) with informal gestural painting." At the Deutsche Guggenheim, this "painting transformed into space" can be experienced in another way: "The new paintings of the series Ich Nicht provide a laconic answer to Barnett Newman's painting Who's afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, which Knoebel takes apart here and rebuilds as space: the painting is made spatial, concrete, and can be entered into." Sebastian Preuss of the Berliner Zeitung also describes Knoebel's investigation of art history: "He dissects Newman's work into its components (…) and explores the myth of the American color field painter. It's not a storm of images, but an endless search for what constitutes a work of art, what it actually consists of." For Michael Kohler of art, Knoebel's "paintings are always objects as well: in his early works, he painted geometric color fields on panels suspended in space; later, he layered painted boards over one another to form a kind of relief (…) this mixture of color field painting and bricolage comes to expression beautifully in the Ich Nicht series."
In the taz, Marcus Woeller asserts that Imi Knoebel creates "spaces of color that do not aim for the sublime, but seek to testify in an entirely pragmatic way to the effects the three primary colors exert on each other." For Woeller a "mythical icon of West German art history," the Dusseldorf artist "becomes abstract where there is hardly anything left to make abstract; he carries the geometric over into the gestural. In new works like Fishing Blue, Knoebel establishes relationships between color and form in series. This was what elevated him into the modern art canon." While Till Briegleb of the Süddeutsche Zeitung is excited by Knoebel's "convincing exploration of the over-powerful architecture" of the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Ich Nicht series, his view of the Fishing series is more critical, terming it "indecisive." "Casually painted aluminum boards screwed into the surface of larger panels painted in the colors pink, blue, red, and yellow do not live up to the strength of Knoebel's art to conclusively redefine the radical as temporary." But Briegleb is already looking forward to the next part of the show: "Beginning in July, the Deutsche Guggenheim will show a real retrospective titled ENDUROS. Then we can sensually experience abstraction's subtle wealth, which Imi Knoebel has advocated for the past 40 years."
Barbara Wiegand of Deutschlandradio Kultur finds Knoebel to be an "artist who occupies certainly one of the more difficult positions in the art world—and also one of the most enduring." In the Tagesspiegel, Nicola Kuhn characterizes him as a "classic who orients himself along Malevich, Mondrian, and Mies van der Rohe." Yet Knoebel never wholeheartedly adopted the "strictness of his foster fathers. His portrait series Grace Kelly with its red, yellow, blue, and pink bars is the abstract painter's charming bow before a woman's beauty." In the Berliner Morgenpost, Gabriela Walde stresses the "interesting opposition" between the presentations in the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Deutsche Guggenheim. "After the purism at the Kulturforum comes the color explosion at Unter den Linden. Here the demure, reduced, quiet Imi without color; there the colorful, furious, monumental Imi for whom no wall is too large and no color deep enough." Walde's résumé: "A truly successful cooperation between two institutions—there's no better way to illustrate this artist, who has always reinvented and questioned himself, yet has always remained true to himself."