Imi Knoebel’s practice often centers on spatial relations in addition to the fundamentals of painting and sculpture, which developed from his education at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf studying under Joseph Beuys. In Raum 19 (Room 19, 1968), Knoebel employed the core elements of artistic practice, such as stretchers, picture frames, and various planar surfaces, reducing them to convey the basic essence of form, material, surface, space, and support. Room 19 can be variously arranged, depending on the context. Since no fixed set of relationships binds the components, the work can expand to an environmental scale. Alternatively, it may be densely compacted as it would be in storage. Since the ensemble is permutable and its configuration, dimensions, and internal relations are dependent on the artist’s decisions in situ, the form becomes an event. Additionally, since any single installation is only ever one among countless possible compositions in this open system, emphasis shifts to presentation, to staging.
While Knoebel dedicated a portion of his career to raw materials or black and white colors, he shifted toward color in the late 1970s, specifically after the death of his peer and friend, Blinky Palermo. 24 Farben—für Blinky (24 Colors—for Blinky), which was installed at Dia:Beacon from 2008 to 2014, magnifies this change. Completed in 1977, the group of works includes twenty-four individual panels of wood, none of them containing a right angle. Each of the panels is painted with a single, unmixed hue, ranging from cadmium orange light and quinacridone crimson to phthalo turquoise green and Payne’s gray. Knoebel’s incorporation of a variety of colors encourages one to observe color as a whole as opposed to a component or the character of a subject.
Imi Knoebel was born in Dessau, Germany, in 1940. He lives and works in Düsseldorf.