Silke Otto-Knapp: In the waiting room

Opening: Saturday, Jan 11, 2020 5 – 8 pm
Saturday, Jan 11 – Mar 29, 2020

University of Chicago
5811 S. Ellis Ave.
Cobb Hall, 4th fl.
Chicago, IL, 60637

Opening reception: Saturday, January 11, 5-8pm-with artist in conversation at 6pm

The Renaissance Society presents In the waiting room, a solo exhibition featuring new large-scale paintings by Silke Otto-Knapp. An arrangement of free-standing display structures situates the works, forming a kind of multidimensional stage set within the gallery.

Otto-Knapp’s paintings carry a certain enigmatic quality, the seeming simplicity of the reduced compositions belied by their layered, diaphanous surfaces and powerful sense of atmosphere. In some, silhouetted bodies stretch, ambulate, and contort, in the midst of a performance or preparing for one. Others introduce more scenic elements, reminiscent of the painted backdrops used on proscenium stages. These works hover between figuration and abstraction, withholding concrete narratives even as they suggest scenarios with their own strange, choreographed logic.

At the Renaissance Society, a number of new works are mounted on temporary walls. Another stands alone in the form of a folding screen. In context with paintings that allude to performance and dance, these structures gesture towards conventions of theatrical staging, where decorative facades frame the set for a fixed audience. Here, they operate as both supports for imagery and as partitions, a provisional architecture of their own. Their positioning in the space generates vantage points and patterns of movement, a loose choreography played out by whomever is viewing them. And within the bounds of the canvases themselves, the stage is set for the kinds of complex interplay painting makes possible: referential connections, material traces, the sedimented weight of history, embodied perceptions of time and space, and more ineffable experiences of emotion, all mediated by the pictorial surface.

The title of the exhibition,In the waiting room, points towards a space of anticipation—perhaps the period before the curtains are raised on a performance, or the passage of time before a doctor’s appointment. Waiting rooms are always underpinned by the promised fulfillment of some desire or need, and its temporary deferral. Otto-Knapp’s exhibition centers this kind of experience; hinting at staged activations but never explicitly delivering one, her work invites the viewer to linger in a moment of suspension, dwelling on latent tensions and impressions as they arise.

Curated by Solveig Øvstebø.


Image: Silke Otto-Knapp, Screen (Trees), 2019. Courtesy of the Artist.