January 8, 2020 - The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago - Silke Otto-Knapp: In the waiting room
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January 8, 2020

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago

Silke Otto-Knapp, Screen (Trees and Moon), 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York/Rome; Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin/New York; greengrassi, London; and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Silke Otto-Knapp
In the waiting room
January 11–March 29, 2020

Opening reception: January 11, 5–8pm, with artist in conversation with curator Solveig Øvstebø at 6pm

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago
Cobb Hall, 4th Floor
5811 S. Ellis Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60637
USA

renaissancesociety.org
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Over the course of her career, Los Angeles-based German artist Silke Otto-Knapp has established a painting practice characterized by its rigorous process and remarkable attentiveness to the medium’s conditions and possibilities. Her works carry a certain enigmatic quality, the seeming simplicity of the reduced compositions belied by their layered, diaphanous surfaces and powerful sense of atmosphere. In the waiting room brings together a new group of large-scale watercolor paintings, situated in an arrangement of free-standing structures to form a kind of multidimensional stage set within the gallery. In some, silhouetted bodies stretch, ambulate, and contort, in the midst of a performance or preparing for one. Others introduce more scenic elements, reminiscent of the painted backdrops used on proscenium stages to ground actions within a particular setting.

Each of these motifs introduces its own historical valences and particular sense of space and time to the works, quickly establishing a productive tension with the surfaces they occupy. A dancing body in choreographed position implies an experience of motion, as does the moon suspended over a body of water activating the ebb and flow of the tides. These dimensions exist in the paintings, but no more so than the shifting perspective of a viewer walking around them, or the changing light in the room as the sun traverses the sky. In Otto-Knapp’s work, all of these registers and more coexist within the coded space of the canvas. Hers is a profoundly painterly practice, stemming from a deep and persistent investment in pushing at the limits of the form and mobilizing its particular capacity to sustain such dynamics.

At the Renaissance Society, a number of these works are mounted on temporary walls, while another stands alone in the form of a folding screen. In context with paintings thematically linked to performance and dance, these structures gesture towards conventions of theatrical staging, where decorative facades frame the set for a fixed audience. Here, they operate as both supports for imagery and as partitions in a provisional architecture of their own. Their positioning in the space generates vantage points and patterns of movement, a loose choreography enacted by whomever is viewing them. And within the bounds of the canvases themselves, the stage is set for the kinds of complex interplay painting makes possible: referential connections, material traces, embodied perceptions of time and space, the sedimented weight of history, and more ineffable experiences of emotion and affect, all collapsed into and mediated by the pictorial surface. Hovering between figuration and abstraction, they deal in intimation more than narrative, hinting at scenarios with their own strange, choreographed logic without ever charting the steps.

In the waiting room is accompanied by a forthcoming catalog, featuring documentation of the exhibition alongside newly commissioned texts by Carol Armstrong, Darby English, Rachel Hann, and Catriona MacLeod.

Curated by Solveig Øvstebø.

Silke Otto-Knapp was born in 1970 in Osnabrück, Germany, and lives and works in Los Angeles. Selected recent solo exhibitions include Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2018), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015), Camden Arts Centre, London (2014), Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2014), Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2014), and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2013). She has also presented solo exhibitions at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley (2011), Kunstverein München, Munich (2010), Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2009), and Tate Britain, London (2005).

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