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Silke Otto-Knapp: A light in the moon / MATRIX 239

September 30, 2011 - January 15, 2012

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Silke Otto-Knapp: Stage, 2009; watercolor and gouache on canvas; 55 x 67 in.; courtesy of The Rachofsky Collection, Dallas.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

The paintings of Silke Otto-Knapp require movement. With layered washes of similarly hued watercolors, the canvases of this London-based German artist seem at first monochromatic, but slight changes in light or a viewer’s position reveal clusters of dancers, a single body pressed up against the edges of the picture plane, or a moonlit landscape. Moving in front of the paintings, we see their potential motion—iconic performances by George Balanchine, Yvonne Rainer, Bronislava Nijinska lie latent within, or a landscape appears: a painted backdrop, awaiting stage directions. Reinterpreting the modernist logic of Ad Reinhardt and Merce Cunningham, Otto-Knapp draws from the vocabulary of abstraction to renew our engagement in the act of seeing.

Otto-Knapp’s recent work conflates the mediums of painting and performance by creating a third site: a theatrical/pictorial stage. Her application of silver pigment serves to echo the shiny seduction of Pop materiality and to veil, or curtain, the represented image. Appropriating famous photographs from contemporary choreography, she stages them within, and behind, this ethereal pigment. This makes for a surprisingly kinesthetic spectacle: figures float tenuously between visibility and invisibility, refusing to be ‘fixed’ onto the canvas, and we, as spectators, perform our own extemporal choreography out of the friction of standing before and within staged space.

This work has inspired a L@TE event with rare videos and live dance performances that will celebrate the opening of the exhibition.

Dena Beard
Curatorial Assistant

Exhibition conceived by Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator Elizabeth Thomas. The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.