Imi Knoebel (born Klaus Wolf Knoebel; 1940) is a German artist. Knoebel is known for his minimalist, abstract painting and sculpture. The “Messerschnitt” or “knife cuts,” are a recurring technique he employs, along with his regular use of the primary colors, red, yellow and blue. Knoebel lives and works in Düsseldorf.
Knoebel was born in Dessau, Germany, in 1940. From 1962–64 he studied at the Darmstadt “Werkkunstschule”, in a course based on the ideas of the pre-Bauhaus course taught by Johannes Itten and László Moholy-Nagy. From 1964 to 1971, he studied under Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with fellow students Blinky Palermo, Jörg Immendorff, Ivo Ringe and Katharina Sieverding.
Knoebel’s work explores the relationship between space, picture support and color. The style and formal concerns of his painting and sculpture have drawn comparisons with the high modernist principles of both Kazimir Malevich and the Bauhaus.
Between 1966 and 1969, Knoebel worked on a series of “Linienbildern”, or line paintings, encompassing 90 panels. Another series of 250,000 “Linienbildern” drawings were done on DIN A4 sheets in the years between 1969 and 1973/75. In 1968 Knoebel created his first major work, an installation with a variety of geometrical objects called Raum 19. Raum 19 comprises 77 components made from wood and Masonite.
Beginning in 1968, Knoebel was one of the first Beuys students to use photography as an independent artistic medium. For his Innenprojektionen (Interior Projections; 1968–1970) black-and-white photographs, he started using empty slide projections, creating empty squares of light, projected on a wall or in a darkened, closed-off room. Knoebel’s 1968 Projektion 1, is a series of luminous, disorienting black-and-white photographs of light projections that bring to mind the architectural slicing that Gordon Matta-Clark was conducting at that time. Projection X (1970–71) and Projektion X Remake (2005), two versions of the same video concept, are his only videotapes based on these outdoor projections.
From the mid-1970s on, Knoebel then turned towards a gestural use of color on layered plywood boards or metal plates.
His painting has since been characterized by a gestural expressive application of color on panels of layered plywood and metal placed in specific spatial relation.
In 1997, the German Bundestag commissioned Knoebel to create the four-part installation Rot Gelb Weiß Blau 1-4 for one of its office buildings. In June 2011, Knoebel’s six stained-glass panes within the apse of the Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral were unveiled alongside the stained-glass works of Marc Chagall completed in 1974.