For immediate release
March 24, 2021
Beacon, New York, March 24, 2021 – Opening at Dia Beacon over the course of three months in spring 2021 are installations by Imi Knoebel, Charlotte Posenenske, and Franz Erhard Walther, who were born within a decade of each other in Germany. Though decidedly distinct, their work is linked through a shared sense of interactivity and an interest in process.
Bodies of work by Imi Knoebel and Franz Erhard Walther have long been a part of Dia’s permanent collection. Dia acquired 155 sculptural works by Charlotte Posenenske in 2018 and a major exhibition of work by the artist followed at Dia Beacon in 2019, exemplifying the foundation’s long-standing commitment to deep, sustained engagement with both individual artists’ practices and this period of 1960s and ’70s art history as a whole. Posenenske’s contributions had long been overlooked in the canon, and this addition to Dia’s collection provides a broader perspective for visitors.
“These exhibitions of early work by Franz Erhard Walther and Imi Knoebel focus on radical moments in their respective careers when each artist embraced principles that would define their artistic output for years to come,” said Donna De Salvo, senior adjunct curator, special projects. “On view in conjunction with a display of work by Charlotte Posenenske, these presentations offer an opportunity to experience the work of three artists whose practices represent a critical and transformative moment in art making in Germany.
“Following the international tour of the Charlotte Posenenske retrospective,” said curator Alexis Lowry, “I am delighted that we are able to reinstall the works that Dia acquired in this new display, which builds on the conversation begun at Dia in 2019. Through a collective approach to installation, this exhibition embraces the radical notions of play, interactivity, and collaboration that formed the sociological basis of Posenenske’s practice.”
Opening March 26, Long-Term View
Before turning away from art production in 1968 in favor of a career in sociology, Posenenske exhibited widely alongside peers such as Hanne Darboven, Donald Judd, and Sol LeWitt, with whom she shared an interest in seriality. Her work is distinguished by its radically open-ended nature. Embracing reductive geometry, repetition, notions of play, and industrial fabrication, she developed a form of mass-produced sculptural Minimalism that addressed the pressing socioeconomic concerns of the decade by circumventing the art market and rejecting established formal and cultural hierarchies. Posenenske employed playful conceptual devices to oppose compositional hierarchy and invite the collaborative engagement of the public in the continual reconfiguration of her variable sculptures.
Building on the major 2019 retrospective, Charlotte Posenenske: Work in Progress, this display was conceived in collaboration with past participants of one of Dia’s Posenenske Sessions, a series of public programs organized in conjunction with the 2019 exhibition. Participants were invited to reconvene and work together on the configurations of the Vierkantrohre Serie D (Square Tubes Series D) and Vierkantrohre Serie DW (Square Tubes Series DW) that will be presented. This group is comprised of members of the general public and Dia staff from across the institution’s departments.
Spanning one of the largest galleries at Dia Beacon and shown in proximity to collection-based displays of contemporaneous German artists Knoebel and Walther, this presentation expands the narrative of this art historical period in the region.
Franz Erhard Walther
Opening April 16, Long-Term View
Walther is recognized for his five-decade-long investigation into the spatial, sensorial, and temporal dimensions of forms. Radical in their emphasis on process rather than product, his participatory sculptures are intrinsically linked to his parallel drawing practice. Reflecting the importance of the body in his sculptural work, the artist’s drawings also bring focus to the physical act of creation. Spanning 10 years of Walther’s early creative output between 1963 and 1973, this collection-based display brings together the 58 working drawings that make up 1. Werksatz (First Work Set, 1963–69), a highly ambitious series of fabric elements. It was for the First Work Set that Walther first explored the use of simple physical actions—pressing, folding, unfolding, and covering surfaces with malleable materials—as a sculptural principle. With this and his recruitment of the spectator in activating the work, he reimagined the work of art as a physical experience.
Opening May 28, Long-Term View
Knoebel’s work of the 1960s and ’70s grapples with questions of presentation and installation, as well as a preoccupation with form. Focused on eliciting an abstract, generic condition in art, Knoebel reduces his work to explorations of form, material, surface, and space. Rejecting the use of metaphor and allusion in art, he focuses on a pragmatic investigation of the formal properties and protocols of the exhibition space, as well as structures for the installation and viewing of his work. In turn, each installation of his work responds to its surroundings.
In the mid-1970s, Knoebel began working with abstract shapes layered with a type of paint typically used for industrial anticorrosion purposes. The ten-part series Mennigebilder (1976) features some of his earliest production in this vein, pairing abstract form and a utilitarian use of lead pigment. Eschewing familiar geometric shapes and a sequential or formulaic approach to color, Knoebel instead chose to use complex forms and specific-but-unconventional colors. Shown only once before in Cologne, West Germany, in 1981, the series then entered Dia’s collection in 1982 and has never before been exhibited in the United States. This presentation, in one of Dia Beacon’s large central galleries, follows important restoration work on the series and also includes additional work by the artist from the series Rot Gelb Blau I–VI (Red Yellow Blue, 1978–79). Knoebel’s large-scale work Raum 19 (Room 19, 1968) also remains on long-term view at Dia Beacon.
About Charlotte Posenenske
Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985) was a German artist and sociologist. Born in Wiesbaden, she formally trained as a painter under Willi Baumeister in Stuttgart during the early 1950s. After briefly working as a costume and set designer in Lübeck and Darmstadt, she focused her attention exclusively on the visual arts during a period known as the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) that rapidly transformed West Germany following the devastations of World War II. Her artistic career was framed by her youth, which was spent under the threat of deportation during the war, and her professional commitment to the sociology of labor from 1968 onward. Posenenske’s work is found in major institutions around the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Tate. Since her death in 1985, her work has gained renewed attention through presentations at Museum MMK für moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (1990); Documenta, Kassel (2007); Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA, 2009); Artists Space, New York (2010); and São Paulo Biennial (2012).
About Imi Knoebel
Imi Knoebel was born in Dessau, Germany, in 1940. From 1963 to 1971, he was a student of Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. His first exhibition, IMI + IMI, with Imi Giese, a fellow student of Beuys, was held in Copenhagen in 1968. Since that time, Knoebel has exhibited his works in Documentas 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987), and at Sonsbeek (1971). In 1987 Knoebel oversaw an installation of his own work as well as that of Beuys and Blinky Palermo for the inaugural exhibitions at Dia’s galleries on West 22nd Street in New York. In 1996–97, a retrospective of his work traveled throughout Europe to such venues as Haus der Kunst, Munich; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Institut Valencià d’art modern, Centre Julio González, Spain.
About Franz Erhard Walther
Franz Erhard Walther was born in Fulda, Germany, in 1939. In 1957, Walther enrolled in the Werkkunstschule in Offenbach, where he first exhibited his work, and from 1962 to 1964 he studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie, where he began employing material processes and methods of storage as work forms. Walther remained in Düsseldorf until 1967, when he moved to New York, where he lived for six years. He has exhibited extensively throughout Europe including in Documentas 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987); as well as at such venues as Secession, Vienna (1989); Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (1993); and FRAC Bretagne, Rennes, France (1999). Additionally, he has work on permanent view at Hamburger Kunsthalle; Kunstmuseum Bonn; and Mamco, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, where a major retrospective of his work was mounted in 2010. 1. Werksatz, the centerpiece of Dia’s installation, was previously shown in exhibitions including Spaces at MoMA, New York (1969–70) and the landmark exhibition When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle Bern (1969). Walther has been a professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg since 1971, where he taught John Bock, Martin Kippenberger, and Jonathan Meese, among others.
Dia Art Foundation
Taking its name from the Greek word meaning “through,” Dia was established in 1974 with the mission to serve as a conduit for artists to realize ambitious new projects, unmediated by overt interpretation and uncurbed by the limitations of more traditional museums and galleries. Dia’s programming fosters contemplative and sustained consideration of a single artist’s body of work and its collection is distinguished by the deep and longstanding relationships that the nonprofit has cultivated with artists whose work came to prominence particularly in the 1960s and ’70s.
In addition to Dia Beacon, Dia Bridgehampton, and Dia Chelsea, Dia maintains and operates a constellation of commissions, long-term installations, and site-specific projects, notably focused on Land art, nationally and internationally. These include:
- Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, inaugurated in 1982 and ongoing), all of which are located in New York City
- De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977) in western New Mexico
- Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah
- Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973–76) in the Great Basin Desert, Utah
- De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977) in Kassel, Germany
For additional information or materials, contact:
Hannah Gompertz, Dia Art Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 212 293 5598
Melissa Parsoff, Parsoff Communications, email@example.com, +1 516 445 5899 (US press inquiries)
Sam Talbot, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 772 5184 630 (international press inquiries)