Imi Knoebel’s restoration at Dia: “24 Colors–For Blinky”

In the July/August issue of The Brooklyn Rail, check out my article about Imi Knoebel’s 1977 installation, which, thanks to generous funding from Gucci, has been recreated at Dia:Beacon. “After Palermo’s mysterious death at 33, Knoebel took the essential components of Palermo’s mostly small-scale work (color, shape, carefully conceived site-specific arrangement, subtle humor), and brilliantly incorporated them in a way that was both elegiac and celebratory, seamlessly fusing the aesthetic signatures of both artists. Although the color sensibility is completely Palermo’s, the careful construction, stacking, and enormity of scale recapitulates Knoebel’s earlier work with fiberboard. To accompany ’24 Colors,’ Dia invited artist Helen Mirra to install another Dia acquisition, Knoebel’s 1968 piece ‘Room 19,’ composed of 77 wood and fiberboard components, stacked and arranged like furniture in a dim storage room. The objects, simply presented in their time-worn condition—dented, darkened, and water-stained—illuminate how Knoebel’s previously monochromatic approach had evolved in the execution of ’24 Colors.’ As if possessed by Palermo’s spirit, color investigation became Knoebel’s predominant focus for the next three decades….Upon further inquiry, I learned that the panels weren’t merely restored. Rather, each was reconstructed from scratch…The wholesale recreation of Knoebel’s paintings has purged them of a not insubstantial measure of their authenticity. Remaking Donald Judd’s plywood boxes, say, or Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light installations does not detract from their real or intended artistic import because the visible subtlety of the artist’s hand is not germane to the aesthetic experience of viewing the work. But a painting itself perceptibly reflects the artist’s creative process, and cannot be reconstructed without effacing the artist’s original experience of making the piece. In painting, the aging and wear inevitably revealed over time metaphorically converts the artist’s contemporaneous emotions into emotional memories….”

Imi Knoebel: 24 Colors–For Blinky,” Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY. Ongoing.

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