Imi Knoebel’s work of the 1960s and ’70s grapples with questions of presentation and installation, as well as a preoccupation with form. Focused on eliciting an abstract, generic condition in art, Knoebel reduces his work to explorations of form, material, surface, and space. Rejecting the use of metaphor and allusion in art, Knoebel focuses on a pragmatic investigation of the formal properties and protocols of the exhibition space, as well as structures for the installation and viewing of his work. In turn, each installation of his work is responsive to its surroundings.
In the mid-1970s, Knoebel began working with abstract shapes layered with a type of paint typically used for industrial anticorrosion purposes. The ten-part series Mennigebilder (1976) features some of his earliest production in this vein, pairing abstract form and utilitarian use of lead pigment. Eschewing familiar geometric shapes and a sequential or formulaic approach to color, Knoebel instead chooses to use complex forms and specific-but-unconventional colors. Shown only once before in Cologne, West Germany, in 1981, the series then entered Dia’s collection in 1982 and has never before been exhibited in the United States. This presentation, in one of Dia Beacon’s large central galleries, follows important restoration work on the series and also includes additional work by the artist.