Christopher Knowles in Two Acts

Bridget Donahue
99 Bowery, 2nd Floor
New York
Lower East Side
Oct 16th 2021 — Jan 8th 2022

Find out more

The departure point of Christopher Knowles’s first solo show at Bridget Donahue is a single red balloon, set against a yellowed sheet in landscape orientation and outlined with a red paint marker. It’s filled in with orderly up-and-down strokes that track neatly across its width. There’s plenty on view at the poet, performer and artist’s exhibition for new arrivals and those who have tracked his 50-year career alike.

First up in “Christopher Knowles in Two Acts” is, of course, “Act One”: a suite of never-shown marker drawings from the nineties, including sun-drenched family portraits, Top 20 pop chart lists and an “Announcer’s Test,” series—words typically spoken into a mic before the show begins. See, for instance, Top 21 of Thursday September 18th 1969 (1990), featuring the lyrics of such classics as the Archies’s “Sugar Sugar” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” rendered in colored marker.

Unusual visual emphasis and de-emphasis continues in his pictures of people. In both Skiing in Vermont drawings (1982 and 1983), for instance, large blocks of background are rendered in strong colors while the characters in the foreground are left paper white, a quirk of Knowles’s work that the gallery compelling refers to as “syncopation,” the musical emphasis on the weaker beat within a rhythm.

Knowles, who found his artistic beginning in downtown Manhattan during the 1970s, when the art scene was developing a specific brand of performance rooted in Minimalism, acknowledges both movements’ influences on his “Announcer’s Test” series, which spans a full wall of the exhibition. Nearly a century ago, announcers tests were developed during the advent of radio broadcasting to measure enunciation, memory and diction. Knowles’s riff on the tests, which typically include every letter of the alphabet,  begins with one single hen and ends with “ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who all stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time.” Knowles’s imagining includes a round red bird, a human-esque figure in a red shirt and blue pants and eight other creatures who are near-impossible to encapsulate in words. Act Two, opening December 11, 2021, will reprise favored motifs—red balloons, handmade cards—along with a performance and party to which, the press release extends, “You are invited.” —Lisa Yin Zhang

Christopher Knowles, One red balloon, 1990. Paint marker on paper, 12 × 17 7/8 inches. Image courtesy Bridget Donahue, Photo: Gregory Carideo.

  • Through
    Jun 6th

    A traveling exhibition of 69 oil paintings, watercolors and works on paper aims to chart Milton Avery’s trajectory and contextualize his work for a new generation.

  • Through
    May 29th

    Inspired by fractals, Renee Cox’s deity-like collages of Black figures constitute an Afrofuturist creation myth.

  • Through
    Jun 6th

    An economical survey of Jonas Mekas, “The Camera Was Always Running” serves as a touching introduction to the Lithuanian filmmaker and champion of avant-garde cinema.

  • Through
    May 22nd

    Exhibited with melodic sight-lines, Mary Manning’s “Ambient Music” hums with the background noise of the subconscious.

  • Through
    May 28th

    The words masterful and mastery assert themselves the instant one encounters the works in “My Body,” both for Nancy Grossman’s command of a wide range of skills and her active state of dominance, identity and selfhood.

  • Through
    May 23rd

    Full of whimsy and delight, Fernanda Laguna’s work in “The Path of the Heart” cuts an incisive critique of sociopolitical issues in Latin America.

  • Through
    May 28th

    The work in Valentina Vaccarella’s “Bless this Life” rests on a simple irony: monogrammed, embroidered French bridal linens pulled taut across stretcher bars and besmirched by rough images of modern madams.

  • Through
    Jun 6th

    Daniel Lie’s “Unnamed Entities” at the New Museum challenges the antiseptic aim of curation and conservation by imagining a different kind of organic art that needs to be nurtured rather than preserved.

  • Through
    Jan 2nd 2023

    The sonic encounters provoked by Camille Norment’s elaborate acoustic artworks serve as agents for social consciousness.

  • Ongoing

    Day’s End, an elegiac memorial to and stubborn ghost of eras bygone, will also serve as silent witness to the inevitable changes to come.

  • Ongoing

    Dia’s recent acquisition of works by Charles Gaines forms the basis of this survey, which includes the artist’s first forays into mathematics-based grid drawings and other early experiments in medium and form.