Bühnenbild (sitzen, stehen), 2021
Silkscreen Print on Yamada Hanga handmade paper
25.6 x 32.3 inches (65 x 82 cm)
Signed Edition of 30
$1,000 for Renaissance Society members
$1,250 for non-members
Following Silke Otto-Knapp’s Spring 2020 exhibition, In the waiting room, the artist has created an edition for the benefit of the Renaissance Society: Bühnenbild (sitzen, stehen), 2021.
In the waiting room featured a group of six large-scale watercolor paintings by the Los Angeles-based German artist, situated in an arrangement of free-standing structures to form a kind of multidimensional stage set within the gallery. In some of Otto-Knapp’s works, 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. Rendered in grayscale with a single black pigment, each carries a certain enigmatic quality, the seeming simplicity of their reduced compositions belied by a deep conceptual framework and powerful sense of atmosphere.
Dancers, landscapes, or geometric forms—each of these motifs introduces its own historical valences and particular sense of space and time to an artwork. A 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 works, 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 practice, all of these registers and more coexist in the coded space of the frame. Within the bounds of each piece of canvas or paper, the stage is set for the kinds of complex interplay painting and drawing make possible: referential connections, material traces, embodied perceptions of time and space, and more ineffable experiences of emotion and affect, all collapsed into and mediated by the pictorial surface. Hovering between figuration and abstraction, her work deals in intimation more than narrative, hinting at scenarios with their own strange, choreographed logic without ever charting the steps.
Otto-Knapp has described how her works seek to “construct a space that can be both two- and three-dimensional—concerned with both the surface of the painting and the illusion of space within the margins of a staged scene.” In Bühnenbild (sitzen, stehen)—which roughly translates to “Stage design (sit, stand)”—this illusory space is complicated, refusing to resolve by adhering to structures of perspective and depth. Figures are offset by a darkness that reads as aura more than shadow, gazing languidly in an ambiguous relationship to the full and half circles with which they share the composition. A viewer might find themselves standing before the work with their body in position similar to one outlined within it, as if acting out the same loose choreography depicted, the silkscreen setting the stage for their own performance of looking.
Silke Otto-Knapp’s print marks the relaunch of our esteemed editions program, which has produced works by Kara Walker, Albert Oehlen, Juan Muñoz, Laura Letinsky, Kerry James Marshall, John Baldessari, Sol LeWitt, Isaac Julian, Nora Schultz, and others. This new chapter of editions forefronts collaboration between the Renaissance Society, artists, and friends to create another platform for experimentation.
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