Minimal. Pure. Perfect
Imi Knoebel at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Imi Knoebel exploits the possibilities of abstraction more than almost any other artist. Since his studied with Joseph Beuys at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, he has exclusively investigated color, form, and serialism – far from any kind of figuration. To commemorate his 75th birthday, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is mounting a comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work.

Knoebel is closely connected to Deutsche Bank. More than 1,000 of his collages, drawings, photographs, and prints are in the Deutsche Bank Collection. In the first art presentation at the bank’s Head Office in Frankfurt, a whole floor was devoted to the artist, and the Deutsche Guggenheim, today the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, put on a double show entitled ICH NICHT/ENDUROS in cooperation with Neue Nationalgalerie.

The title of his Wolfsburg exhibition, Imi Knoebel. Works 1966 – 2014, sounds sober. Indeed, his early works, including his line drawings from 1966/68, which are reduced to a few accurately drawn black lines on a white background, seem quite austere. But if we delve into the cosmos of the artist, a resident of Düsseldorf, we understand how these beginnings, strongly influenced by Malevich and Russian Suprematism, spawned a surprisingly multifaceted and multicolored work.

The spectrum of the some 100 exhibits ranges from his early monochrome paintings to aluminum reliefs in bright pink, yellow, and orange hues, to space-filling installations.  His first installation, consisting of 836 parts, is on view – the legendary Raum 19 created at the Düsseldorf Academy. “Everything in it,” recalls Knoebel’s fellow student Johannes Stüttgen, “the whole inventory, the hardboard, the hardboard cubes and cuboids, the battens, the timber, the brackets, and the tools, everything was staked off, circled off, reduced, minimal, pure, perfect, directed, measured, layered, rigid, clear, clean, professional.”  
The 40 by 40 meter exhibition hall in Wolfsburg offers even this work an adequate, open architectural framework. The space is organized by three walls running diagonally through the room. “With it, I open up paths,” explained Imi Knoebel, who staged the exhibition himself. He views one wall as being not only a hanging surface, but also part of the pictorial world and the design. Depending on the position of the viewer, very different lines of sight are possible. The dialogue between the works is a central theme of the exhibition. Although the show looks back on nearly five decades of artistic production, it is not arranged chronologically. At the beginning, says Imi Knoebel, it shows “only the beginnings, really – and then everything is jumbled together!” And it is precisely this “jumble” that enables visitors to continually discover surprising links between individual works and groups of works.

Imi Knoebel. Works 1966 – 2014

25/10/2014 – 15/02/2015
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg