Sep 16–Dec 27, 2015

Christopher Knowles: In a Word

'Untitled', from the portfolio 'Typings', 1986. Silkscreen on Ivorite paper, 25 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to present Christopher Knowles: In a Word. Christopher Knowles (born 1959, New York; lives Brooklyn) is regarded as a poet and painter, yet his output is broader than this suggests. This exhibition, his most comprehensive to date, spans many mediums—text, sound, painting, drawing, sculpture, and performance—including pieces made in collaboration with esteemed theater director Robert Wilson. The work records and reorders the everyday materials around us using incantatory rhythms and repetition. Typings of language permutations, reimagined song lyrics, interlocking blocks of raw color commonly depict family and close friends. Sculptures are precise and direct in construction: polka-dotted cones, brilliantly hued paper cutouts, Lego structures, and accumulations of wind-up alarm clocks. Performances feature daily routines rendered into theatrical exaggeration. Taken together, Knowles’s art places him squarely in the tradition of Laurie Anderson, Joseph Beuys, Stuart Sherman, Paul Thek, and other twentieth-century artists who opened a large window on do-it-yourself production, interiority and the shifting registers with which an artist’s voice can enunciate in social settings.

Co-organized by Chief Curator Anthony Elms and guest curator Hilton Als, writer and chief theater critic for The New Yorker. A fully illustrated catalogue, published later in 2015, will include essays by the curators, a reprint of an autobiographical text by Knowles, and a new essay by art historian Lauren DiGiulio.

This exhibition traveled to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2017.

Christopher Knowles, Untitled, 2014Christopher Knowles, Untitled, 2012Christopher Knowles, Untitled (2105)Christopher Knowles, The Sundance Kid is Beautiful (2013)


Books & Editions
ISBN 9781941366158
Publication Date
Claire Bidwell & Anjali Pala, Miko McGinty Inc.
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, & Gregory R. Miller & Co.
"Major support for Christopher Knowles: In a Word has been provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional funding has been provided by Pamela Toub Berkman & David J. Berkman, Julie & Larry Bernstein, Charles X Block, Carol T. & John G. Finley, Cheri S. & Steven M. Friedman, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Kirk Kirkpatrick, Toby Devan Lewis, and Mari & Peter Shaw.rnrnSupport for The Sundance Kid Is Beautiful at ICA has been provided by the DolfingerMcMahon Foundation."