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On Wanting to Grow Horns: The Little Theater of Tom Knechtel


An exhibition of paintings and drawings by Los Angeles-based artist Tom Knechtel (neck-tull) will premier at the Weatherspoon Art Museum on Sunday, April 21 and will continue through July 14, 2002. On Wanting to Grow Horns: The Little Theater of Tom Knechtel is a mid-career survey of Knechtel's work from 1976 to 2001. Knechtel creates magical oil paintings and drawings that combine scrupulous technique with various inspirations ranging from puppet shows, Kabuki Theater, fairy tales, zoological prints, and the work of earlier artists such as William Blake and Hieronymus Bosch. Despite such exotic and far-flung sources, Knechtel's works are grounded in his own personal experience at the same time they invite the viewer's own interpretation. (left: Map (top panel detail), 1998-99, oil on linen, two panels, 18 x 11 inches and 18 x 11 inches (36 x 11 inches overall), Collection of Michael and Cecelia Dan, Malibu, CA)

Known for a technical virtuosity and for the range of his works on paper, Knechtel has explored the media of watercolor, gouache, pastel, charcoal, silverpoint, graphite, and ink, in each case keeping a pure relationship between method and mark-making. In 1985, he began to paint in oils in a desire to loosen up his precise and meticulous technique. The phantasmagoric works that resulted set forth intricate and meandering narratives, which delight the viewer with a labyrinth of private fantasy and stylized, colorful spectacle.

With a flurry of activity and exquisite detail, Knechtel invites viewers to step up for a closer look at his imaginary terrains.  In an e-mail interview with writer and art critic Benjamin Weissman, Knechtel explains, "I think my obsession with miniature comes from several things. I love toys, and when a kid, I made stuffed animals that were very small, with their own clothing, relishing the diminutive scale. The intimacy of that and of objects like illuminated manuscripts, the way they make the viewer tune out the larger world and just focus on this tiny presentation, that fascinates me. I also like the idea of the scale of a picture going from (relatively) large to extremely tiny, so that it seems to contain an entire world in itself, slowing down the viewer's tendency to skim pictures quickly."

The exhibition is comprised of twenty-four oil paintings and approximately seventy works on paper representing a wide range of media and subject matter.  Also included will be "Two Allegories," a 1983-84 single edition book which further evolved an iconography of unruly passion and animistic spirituality for which Knechtel is well known. On Wanting to Grow Horns: The Little Theater of Tom Knechtel is intended to define the artist's unique voice, and to show that Knechtel's aesthetic sophistication, multicultural interests, and literary/theatrical sensibility are quite relevant to a broad contemporary consciousness. (right: The Old Centaur, 1993, pastel on paper, 22 1/2 x 30 1/2 inches, Collection of the Artist)

Accompanying the exhibition is a splendid 128-page hard cover catalogue, which includes sixty color images, twenty-one black and white plates and essays by Ron Platt, Weatherspoon Curator of Exhibitions, and Anne Ayers, Director of Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design. The catalogue also includes a prose piece by Benjamin Weissman; a commissioned poem by Pulitzer-prize winner Richard Howard; and a poem that was dedicated to the artist by Los Angeles writer Amy Gerstler.

In addition, a video interview with the artist will be available for viewing in the gallery throughout the exhibition.

After the exhibition at Weatherspoon Art Museum, the exhibition will travel to the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA, November 9, 2002 - February 15, 2003; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI, April 18, 2003 - June 15, 2003; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, June - September, 2003 (dates TBA).



Tom Knechtel was born in Palo Alto, California in 1952. He has been included in numerous group exhibitions including the City of Los Angeles Grant Recipients show last year at the Skirball Art Museum; The Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles; The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena; and The Drawing Center in New York.  He has had recent solo exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum; PPOW Gallery in New York; and Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Los Angeles.

Knechtel was selected to participate in the 36th Art on Paper exhibition at the Weatherspoon Art Museum (November 19, 2000 - January 14, 2001). His work, "Young Pig," 2000, pastel on paper, was acquired from Art On Paper for the Weatherspoon's Dillard Collection and is included in this nationally touring exhibition.

On Wanting to Grow Horns: The Little Theater of Tom Knechtel was curated by Anne Ayres, organized by the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, and initiated and sponsored by the Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

rev. 5/2/02


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