As soon as you enter the exhibition space, you plunge into Imi Knoebel’s colorful intensity – luminous color as an intense sensory event, clearly defined within a construct of exact forms. The minimalist and two-dimensional works Pure Freude function at the same time as images of the desire to look and think.[1]
As is so often the case with Imi Knoebel, Pure Freude is a series of works, created in 2001-02 and given recognition in the same year by an extensive exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hanover. Aluminium and synthetic paper serve as picture medium – two industrially manufactured materials which Knoebel uses as a basis for the pure colour. The exhibited works are 12 original designs by the artist, partly in groups of 3 to 4, which precede the well-known edition Pure Freude and represent an important step in the process of developing the series.

The title Pure Freude reminds us of Paul Klee and his theory of the purity of colours, which defines colour as what remains when all units of measurement are omitted. In Imi Knoebel’s Pure Freude, each color appears monochrome on one element of the overall composition, thus gaining the freedom and intensity that allows it to assert its autonomy against any other color in the picture.[2]

At the beginning of the last century, Kasimir Malevich, influential in Knoebel’s work, already proclaimed that the most valuable thing in a creative work of painting was the coloring and surface structure which constituted the essence of painting. Knoebel’s linking of color with the form of the individual elements of the medium and the unity of the pictorial construct can be seen as part of this theoretical tradition. [3]

Even before Imi Knoebel became involved with color, the artist was interested in line, which Paul Klee had already described as “a matter of mass alone“. Especially in his early work, the measurability of lines became an important theme for Imi Knoebel. During his studies under Joseph Beuys, he intensively explored the creative possibilities of lines. The second room of our exhibition is therefore dedicated to this aspect of Knoebel’s oeuvre, in which a selection of early pencil drawings from the 1970s is on view.

Imi Knoebel, born 1940 in Dessau as Klaus Wolf Knoebel, studied with Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, and is regarded as one of the most consistent artists of post-war abstract art. Knoebel described himself always as a “painter” rather than an „artist”, thus emphasizing not only the craftsmanship of the art process, but also his interest in exploring the possibilities and limits of painting. Starting from Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square of 1915, which he sees as the zero point of modern painting, he takes this as an occasion for a new beginning and, like Malevich, strives to create icons of his time. For Knoebel, both color and line are important means in this respect for exploring the actual idea of the picture.

In recent years, solo exhibitions of Imi Knoebel’s works have been shown at the nearby Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (2018); Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig (2016); Musée National Fernand Léger, Biot (2016) and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2015).

[1] Kestner Gesellschaft, Imi Knoebel | Pure Freude, Hanover 2002, Carsten Ahrens, p. 23

[2] Kestner Gesellschaft, Imi Knoebel | Pure Freude, Hanover 2002, Carsten Ahrens, p. 22/23

[3] Kestner Gesellschaft, Imi Knoebel | Pure Freude, Hanover 2002, Carsten Ahrens, p. 14