21. Imi Knoebel

    Imi Knoebel b. 1940, Dessau, Germany Alte Liebe three parts, acrylic on aluminum, 2011 The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art Gift of Barbara '68 and Theodore '68 Alfond Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College 2013.34.117 Since the beginning of his artistic career in the late 1960s, German artist Imi Knoebel has been concerned with the boundaries and limits of painting. After attending the Darmstadt School of Arts and Crafts, he studied under Joseph Beuys at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1964 to 1971. During this time, Beuys introduced Knoebel to the idea of an open artistic practice and imbued him with faith in the potential for new beginnings in art. This allowed Knoebel to reconsider painting as a medium by investigating its fundamental elements. Alte Liebe from 2011 exemplifies Knoebel’s exploration of the relationship between surface, frame, and color. The three panels, hanging side-by-side on the wall, echo each other across distinct but related forms. Perched on top of the monochromatic back panels of yellow, turquoise, and pink are segments of aluminum stretcher bars painted in alternating colors of varying intensity. Like many of Knoebel’s works, Alte Liebe can be understood as a painting. At the same time, it aspires to undermine the status and role of the medium. The interlocking bars on the border of each composition direct the attention of the viewer away from the painting’s center and toward its periphery. This shift in focus subverts the traditional reading of a painting, where importance is connoted through physical centrality. The aluminum bars project into the viewer’s space, emphasizing three-dimensionality and belying the work’s interpretation as a two-dimensional surface. Positioning the aesthetic experience in relation to space, Alte Liebe evades easy classification as painting and achieves Knoebel’s goal of stretching both the physical and conceptual boundaries of the medium.