When designing the stately Milanese apartment buildings, architects followed the motto: bela de denter, pei padroni, brutta de foera, pei mincioni – ‘beautiful from the inside, for the owners/patrons, ugly from the outside, for the fools’. This dictum informs a certain bourgeois self-conception: Representation is directed towards the inside. Internal self-assurance weighs heavier than any outward-facing claim. The ever-same architectural gesture – i.e. the act of masking – perpetuates this self-assertion across all buildings, yet it must remain hollow. The infinitely repeated precious (projection) surfaces mounted to apartment walls obstruct proper introspection and thus underpin a mere fiction of the self – in fact, the bare planes mirror an ideological void.
In hindsight, the eponymous Oscar Columno may be deciphered as an early clue in Knauf’s double deal: This generic, yet evocative name of a fictional architect offers scaffolding for projections of grandezza and elegance. However, upon closer examination, the master’s name reveals itself as being nothing but a brittle surface – an ennobled construction material, so to speak. Here, the eternally unredeemed promises of empty Modernist gestures are already foreshadowed.
Knauf’s works, previously on view during our group shows Paradise is now. Palm Trees in Art, and Losing my Virginity, comprise a broad spectrum of materials and substances from the construction and furnishing sector. Hereby, his interest lies in the aesthetics of materials and their culture. Knauf’s sculptures and wall paintings form material collages, which raise questions about taste and trends. What are the longings behind the choice of specific materials for architecture or furnishing? What does the proliferation of material say about the taste and sentimentality of the place and time in which it was used? Knauf’s masterfully crafted, technically proficient sculptures combine forms and materials that achieve a delicate equilibrium while at the same time connecting questions of art history and aesthetics.
Text: Till Wittwer
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