In the Spring of 2020, The Renaissance Society presented the exhibition In the waiting room by Los Angeles-based German artist Silke Otto-Knapp. This new publication revisits the exhibition with installation shots and large images of individual works on foldout pages. The publication also contains new essays by Carol Armstrong, Darby English, Rachel Hann, and Catriona MacLeod, as well as a conversation between Otto-Knapp and curator Solveig Øvstebø.
In the waiting room featured a group of six 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 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. 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.”
The title of the exhibition, In the waiting room, points towards a space of anticipation—perhaps the period before the curtains are raised on a performance, or the passage of time before a doctor’s appointment. Waiting rooms are always underpinned by the promised fulfillment of some desire or need, and its temporary deferral. Otto-Knapp’s exhibition centered this kind of experience; hinting at staged activations but never explicitly delivering one, her work invites the viewer to linger in a moment of suspension, dwelling on latent tensions and impressions as they arise.