b. 1940, Germany

Imi Knoebel Biography

Imi Knoebel is known for his simple yet evocative visual language that blends colour with geometric shapes. Painted or installed, Knoebel's artworks delight the eye through their unexpected compositions.

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Early Years

Born Klaus Wolf Knoebel in Dessau, Germany, Knoebel studied Applied Arts at the Darmstadt School of Arts and Crafts (1962—1964), following the theoretical studies of Johannes Itten and Lászlo Moholy-Nagy of the Bauhaus movement.

The artist went on to attend the Dusseldorf Art Academy, where he studied alongside German abstract painter Blinky Palermo under Joseph Beuys.

Imi Knoebel Artworks

Made from simple materials and with 'pure perception' as their guiding ethos, Imi Knoebel's paintings and installations communicate sentiments across form and colour.

Installations

While studying under Beuys, Knoebel made Raum 19 (1968). Named after his studio at the time, this large-scale installation consists of 184 pieces of wood and fibreboard, including frames, cylinders, and cubes, which can be stacked, layered, and reconfigured in multiple ways.

Unpainted and untreated, Raum 19 paved the way for the neutral, pared-down works that would follow, all of which would prioritise form over idea. In the artist's own words: 'When I am asked about what I think when I look at a painting ... I look at it and can only take in the beauty, and I don't want to see it in relation to anything else.'

White Paintings

During his studies, Knoebel grew more interested in high modernist principles, including the relationship between space, pictorial space, and colour.

Accordingly, Knoebel's early work included light projections and pure white paintings like Weisse Konstellation (1975/1987), four acrylic boards painted white and stacked diagonally atop one another against a wall.

Coloured Sentiment

Later geometric paintings like the 'Kinderstern' ('Star for Children') series (1988—ongoing), which includes imperfect star shapes painted bright colours, depart from a strictly reductionist stance through the addition of colour while retaining the simplicity of familiar forms, recreating a toy block a child could play with.

Just as understated, An meine Grüne Seite 07-29 (2007), a white tent-like construction made from two boards propped against each other with the interior painted orange, appears almost sculptural in nature as it renounces the boundaries of the canvas.

Knife Cut Paintings

Knoebel is further known for his 'Messerschnitt' ('Knife Cut') paintings, a distinct painting style on paper that results in a cacophony of abstract shapes rendered in complementary colours, each partaking a dialogue with the next without ever touching the other.

Amongst them, Messerschnitt (1977) depicts morsels of brown aside curling red strips and hybrid triangles painted pink, showing the odd shapes in perfect harmony against a white background.

Later Work

In Knoebel's work, shape and colour alike arouse sentiments of liveliness and nostalgia in the viewer, which are emphasised by the simplicity of the artist's subject matter.

Resulting works like LUEB Go 1276w (2013), strips of colour plastered on a pink oval aluminium board, hint at a sense of playfulness while offering a sober contemplation of visual and formal interactions through its careful composition.

Awards and Accolades

In 2016, Knoebel was awarded the insignia of Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He was also awarded the Kythera Prize in 2011 and an honorary doctorate from Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany.

Exhibitions

Imi Knoebel's work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions worldwide.

Select solo exhibitions include Dep Art Gallery, Milan (2021); Dia:Beacon, New York (2021); Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt (2020); White Cube, London (2020); Galerie Heinrich Ehrhardt, Madrid (2019); Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris (2019); Kewenig Galerie, Berlin (2019); Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (2018); Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2014); Design of the gothic windows for the Cathedral of Reims, France (2011); and Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2006).

Select group exhibitions include Hauser & Wirth, New York (2020); Gagosian, Paris (2020); Kunsthalle Dusseldorf (2017); Grand Palais, Paris (2013); Albertina, Vienna (2013); Musée des Beaux-arts, Reims (2011); and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (2002).

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022

Imi Knoebel Featured Artworks

View All (20)
Messerschnitt VI by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Imi Knoebel Messerschnitt VI, 1977 Acrylic on paper
100 x 70 cm
Dep Art Gallery Contact Gallery
Tafel DCLXXXIX by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting
Imi Knoebel Tafel DCLXXXIX, 2016 Acylic on aluminium, wood
14.7 x 10.4 x 3.1 cm
Dep Art Gallery Contact Gallery
Tafel DCLXXIII by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting, sculpture
Imi Knoebel Tafel DCLXXIII, 2016 Acylic on aluminium, wood
14.7 x 10.4 x 3.1 cm
Dep Art Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Imi Knoebel Untitled, 1985 Oil, gesso and découpage on fibreboard
202 x 172 cm
SETAREH Contact Gallery
Senzatitolo 4 Ed. by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Imi Knoebel Senzatitolo 4 Ed., 2009/2011 Acrylic painted on synthetic paper
27 x 23 cm
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder Contact Gallery
Tafel DCCXXVI by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting
Imi Knoebel Tafel DCCXXVI, 2016 Acrylic on aluminium, wood
294 x 19 x 4 cm
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder Contact Gallery
Untitled by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Imi Knoebel Untitled, 1972 Graphite on paper
296 x 21 cm
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder Contact Gallery
Tafel CDXCII by Imi Knoebel contemporary artwork painting, sculpture
Imi Knoebel Tafel CDXCII, 2006–2019 Acrylic on aluminium
1542 x 99 x 8 cm
Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder Contact Gallery

Imi Knoebel Recent Exhibitions

View All (4)

Imi Knoebel Represented By

White Cube contemporary art gallery in Mason's Yard, London, United Kingdom
White Cube Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, West Palm Beach

Imi Knoebel In Ocula Magazine

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