Retreat from the world is seldom achieved – your existence picks you up and carries you along. The life outside the studio, the objects on the wall which speak of attachments and histories, the narratives that have been used for millennia – they pull you out of the vortex of grief, whether you want that or not. This tug of the world is a complex mixture of the joyous and the painful.
- Tom Knechtel, 2022
P·P·O·W is pleased to present Drawn After Life, an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Tom Knechtel. Known for his complex allegorical narratives using a repertoire of characters and exploring themes of sexuality, animal nature, and the fragility of the human body, Knechtel’s work pushes an unflinching vulnerability to boldly confront his lived reality. Ebbing between opulent, saturated colors and stark, somber hues, Drawn After Life surveys an emotional tide, vacillating between the sited and psychic, the observed and imagined.
Made over the course of five years since the passing of his husband, Rabbi Robert Baruch, Drawn After Life charts states of not only loss, grief, and pain but also of happiness, joy, and beauty. The works which make up Drawn After Life function as navigational tools allowing Knechtel to articulate the incomprehensible. Of this work, he states: “it is perhaps better to understand where we are, to accept the contradictions and unresolved situations of mourning, loss and being alive, along with the solace that beauty and the imagination can offer.”
In Drawn After Life, Knechtel embodies the intimate connection between the hand and the self, caught within a web of the conscious/unconscious mind, the physical world, and realms of memories and dreams. Paintings such as Fall, 2021, describe a collision of these realities. Located within the artist’s studio in Southern California, the scene is caught in a moment of suspension as the artist’s tools and their colorful vessels fall away. Perfectly articulated and statically preserved, his portrait is wholly vanished against a studio wall covered in pictures, punched through by a window to the backyard. A profile image of the artist’s husband hangs on the wall just behind, as if the artist were a transient figure within paradoxically stable, concrete, and permanent memories.
Drawn After Life will also include a new series of silverpoint and graphite drawings of hares and hands. The hare, as with other animals in the exhibition, is enigmatic and a malleable vessel of meaning, often standing in for the emotional state of its human counterpart. Long, rangy, and athletic, with elongated snouts and wild eyes, hares often live alone or in pairs. These works on paper highlight Knechtel’s careful attention to his mediums: the silverpoint and graphite marks on prepared paper are precise, yet the composition is scattered about the perimeter, dislocated but exact. The purely graphite drawings, on the other hand, break down the individual marks, becoming atmospheric and narrative. For Knechtel, drawing is a language in which he can change syntax, and syntax changes meaning.
Tom Knechtel was born in Palo Alto, California in 1952. He holds both a BFA (1974) and an MFA (1976) from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). In 2002 he had a 25-year retrospective entitled On Wanting to Grow Horns, which opened at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery in North Carolina before traveling to the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA; The Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, HI; and the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA. Other solo exhibitions include Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA; P·P·O·W, New York, NY; and Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Knechtel has been included in numerous group exhibitions including The Drawing Center, New York, NY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA; and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA. His work is in the permanent collections of The Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon, Portugal; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA; the Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, CA; and The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI. Knechtel lives and works in Los Angeles. P·P·O·W originally showed Knechtel’s work in 1997; this will be his second solo exhibition with the gallery.