An architect by training, John Knight is part of a generation of post-conceptual artists which questions “systems for mediating and accommodating the art object” (Benjamin Buchloh) and aims at deconstructing institutional systems of logic. Devised on the basis of the places in which he works, his in situ installations take the context into account, as much in its aesthetic dimension as in its cultural, economical and political components. In his project for Documenta VII in 1982, the bas-relief image of eight JKs did not focus on the exaggerated representation of a “self”, but the metaphorization of the spatial and social relations which human beings have with the quest for their originality in collective values. Almost 30 years later, in How Many Billboards, Art in Stead (2010) a temporary show bringing together several artists in the streets of Los Angeles, Knight installed signs above a building housing the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a not-for-profit association to help children from the Middle East. Like the “JK”, the billboard becomes both a sign-object, with a precise function—here a statement against the lack of drinking water in Palestine—and a work of art. But Knight also criticizes the exhibition itself, which, by choosing the urban space as a place of display, keeps art apart from politics, in spite of everything. Likewise, in Cold Cuts (2008) at the Castelló art venue in Spain, Knight spoke out against the illegal interventions of the United States in El Salvador, Vietnam and Chile since the 1950s, as well as their consequences to do with the dismantlement of local cultures. Images, texts, press photographs mixing gastronomy, things exotic, political events, and extracts about the activities of the American secret services, all weave different levels of interpretation in an arrangement using coloured pentagons on the walls and the floor.
John Knight was born in Hollywood in 1945, and lives and works in Los Angeles (United States). He embarked on his career in the late 1960s, and his works have been shown in many exhibitions. Recently his work was shown in Los Angeles (2009), at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (2009), at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin (2009), at the Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery in Munich (2008), and at the Contemporary Art Space in Castelló, Spain(2008).