3 June 2011 post: Imi Knoebel, Selected Works & Interview

How does Knoebel work?

The eye is caught by a countless number of colored edges in his studio. All the color seem full, originally conceived for their haptic quality and not for their immaterial brilliance. There aren’t any transitions, no transparency and no colors flow into one another. In the open drawer of a flat file, at the ready, are sheets of paper stacked up in blocks and sorted by color and tone. The sheets of paper are cut into swatches — each one a handwidth in length — filling the color workshop, a smallish room on the lower of his two floors. Other strips of color hang in rows on two walls; the palettes of Liquitex, Aquatec, Schmincke and Lascaux. “The yellow from Aquatec doesn’t compare to Schmincke’s,” says Knoebel.

What are his favorite colors?

Pink is a favorite. Pink, in his eyes, is “disreputable, unclear and baby-like. Nobody wants a pink color in his living room.” He points out that Lucio Fontana used a really kitschy pink in some of his ‘egg-shaped’ paintings and that Barnett Newman resorted to other ‘off’ colors like turquoise and brown in “The Gate” [1954] and in “Uriel” [1955.] “Those I like … ” On work tables in one of the other rooms of his color workshop, he lays out combinations of color strips, interweaving red, yellow and blue in squared-off areas. We get to Piet Mondrian and “New York City II” [1942-44.] It’s hanging in Düsseldorf’s Nordrhein-Westfalia collection. Made from strips of colored tape, it is a preliminary model for a work that was never finished. Asking him about the red, yellow and blue in his multiple, “Little Piet” [1993], he throws the question back at me: “How can we let only Mondrian and Newman use these colors? That’s a fundamental issue for a painter.”

Does he see himself as a painter?

“Very much so, at the moment.” But he doesn’t want to continue that forever. He explains that he never saw himself as a painter in the literal sense. He rejects painting as a “vocation, doctrine and theory.” He links that with being “uptight, stiff and caged in.”

What are his artistic roots?

Unlike his earlier painter colleagues, Blinky Palermo and Jörg Immendorff, he and his closest friend, Imi Giese, didn’t have a strong painting background when they started at the Düsseldorf Academy in 1964. “We hadn’t learned about representation with a paintbrush and color,” he says. “We rejected painting styles, knacks and tricks because we didn’t want to put something on canvas that wasn’t yet our own. We had to find our materials and we wanted to start from scratch, the zero point.” For him, using masonite cut to sixty-by-sixty centimeters, was more imaginable than any style that the history of painting could offer. This masonite gives him “an already finished painting and it’s easy to carry a sixty-by-sixty format under your arm.” Not without sentiment, he remembers that for a long time transportability on the streetcar was a deciding factor in his choice of format. Later on he made this decision based on commercially available standard sizes for masonite.

excerpt from an interview with Imi Knoebel, by Dirk Luckow, interview source courtesy of: http://www.jca-online.com/knoebel.html

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