Paco Knöller

Kunstforum in der Grundkreditbank

There is nothing snug or secure about the spaces in which Paco Knöller’s figures linger, wait, grope about. These are menacing spaces without a location. The paths the artist lays out, on which movement still seems possible, can break off abruptly to become lurching pockets of air in which we are unstably trapped, as in his Sind süchtig nach Lügen (Addicted to lies, 1987), or can compress into the no-exit, fiery furnaces suggested by the intense red ground of Kurosawa 2, 1987.

Here, in an exhibition organized by the Nationalgalerie, Knöller showed 14 works in oil pigments and pastels on large-format paper from the last three years. His images are of damaged life and unprotesting death. They generally forgo any obvious references to contemporary social issues, for Knöller has developed a way of expressing the anxieties of our moment by reaching backward and forward in time. In For American Eyes Only, 1986, an oddly-shaped archaic sacrificial slab that bears the simplified image of a head evokes the threat of global holocaust. In Gurna, 1987, two cowering figures sit on the ground at the edge of the desert, hugging their knees and waiting for the dark of night to descend around them. There are two similarly squatting figures in the oppressive niches formed by what seem to be building blocks in an untitled work from 1986, and another figure hunched inside the claustrophobic, floating cell of Handlungsraum (Procedure room, 1985). The dialogue between these two images renders each one more ominous, more chilling, as an expression of our current historical reality.

Knöller does not offer a fireworks of colors. He has reduced his palette to modulated slate-blues, gray-greens, yellows, and reds, tinged with shades of black. The huge sculptural blocks of his forms evoke the ineluctable density as well as the vagueness of the interstices that turn human existence into a continual encounter with a bottomless abyss. Lines define and cut through these forms, mediating between emptiness and volume, and producing the seemingly inevitable order of the imagery. Some might characterize these pictures as color drawings, but, although line dominates, color supplies the materiality, and the two, as handled by Knöller, make for a symbolic pictorial language that powerfully passes judgment on our life-threatening world.

Martin Hentschel

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.