John Knight

JK, 1982

Documenta VII (1982) was the exhibition which paid homage to the upsurge of neo-Expressionism in the early 1980s. Going against the grain of this glorification of subjectivism, and/or to turn the interpretation of it upside down, for the main stairway at Documenta John Knight designed a series of eight logotypes, all of the same size. If the objects created acknowledged the notion of individualism, in imposing the artist’s two initials side by side (JK), through their rigorous cut-out, the references of their content (Versailles and Bahamas tourist posters) refer to the issue of private identity versus that of a public branding advocated by the media and advertising. The bound initials, with the common “Helvetica italic” design, act as a medium for fragmented views of cityscapes, in this way associating the personal and the impersonal, the assumed authenticity of the work of art because of the monogram/signature, and iconographic mass culture. As tangible signs and real objects, these wooden bas-reliefs, affixed very high up, offer a commentary on the method of presentation, the exhibition venue, and the social, economic and cultural context. The desire to fix the notion of singularity is here based on the unusual dimension of the places mentioned and their sovereign ability to offer exemplary instruction in history, architecture, and taste. By turning the customary public/private contrast on its head, Knight demystifies the artist’s personal sign by incorporating it in the anonymity of a common typography, and thus thwarts the spectator’s expectation, oriented towards a purely aesthetic experience.

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