Alison Knowles: Some Things
Edizioni Conz Raum
Feb 28–Apr 03, 2020
Exhibition view “Some Things”, Photos by Giorgia Palmisano.
Exhibition view “Some Things”, Photos by Giorgia Palmisano.

The Edizioni Conz Raum presents Some Things, a selection of works by Alison Knowles from Archivio Conz.

Francesco Conz and Alison Knowles met in New York during Francesco's first trip in 1974, which began their collaboration on numerous projects and editions. As it happened with most of the artists that have closely worked with Francesco Conz, their relationship shifted from a professional one to one of great friendship that lasted for their lifetime.

“Artists are involved in the every day chaos of life and art, and they promote a debate which is somehow central to the notion of enlightenment.”

Conz’s words reflecting his consideration of artists as saints helps us to understand the importance he placed on direct experience with the artists, and consequently on the “fetish” side of his collection: the collection of the artists' relics. This is the identity of the archive Francesco Conz put together over the course of more then thirty years: a life experience in which the lived moments with the artists come before their works.

An example of these great existing bonds can be seen in a peculiar work shown at the Edizioni Conz Raum: "Grant Moves South" is the book by Bruce Catton that Dick Higgins was reading in the last days of his life. Alison Knowles, his wife, decided to send it to Francesco Conz, accompanied by a letter explaining the reason for this gift.

“The Identical Lunch,” a tuna fish sandwich on wheat toast with lettuce and butter, no mayo and a large glass of buttermilk or a cup of soup, was eaten many days of each week at the same place and at about the same time as a digestible performance starting from 1969. In her 1971 artist’s book "Journal of the Identical Lunch," Knowles records the description of the lunch and collects descriptions of their experience from other friends and artists, using the performed action as the basis for a new way to develop media. Among others, the participants include Dick Higgins, John Giorno, Philip Corner, George Maciunas, Geoffrey Hendricks and Ay-O. Some of the works in the show, including the “Identical Lunch” series, demonstrate the interest Alison Knowles has in the printing process:

“I could print on cloth, but I was no longer having a brush and paint. I was printing with inks and I was kind of obsessed with the act of printing because you don't have to pull the squeegee all the way, you can do it with two colors, partially...Smear I mean it's kind of, I treated printing almost like a painting.”

The edition “Leone D’Oro” published by Edizioni Francesco Conz in 1978 also explores the possibility of printing by silk-screening shoe soles that the artist found on the shore of the bay of Naples. Her emancipation from the more classical ways of art happened through the freedom she found in the performativity of Fluxus experience:

“But the idea of those Fluxus pieces was that if you are gonna talk about your shoes, there is no one in this room that has the same pair of shoes in any way or the same history about them. So, it brings out the individual flavor of the person and their life.”

Alison Knowles (b. 1933 in New York City, New York, USA, lives and works in New York City) was among the founders and original protagonists of Fluxus. Her graphic and pictorial works are distinguished by a textured, consistent, and tactile quality. Her performances are characterized by the indeterminacy of the scores, repetition, and everyday life. Knowles married Dick Higgins in 1960 and became one of the key supporters of the activities of Something Else Press. In 1962, Proposition #2: Make a Salad premiered at the ICA – Institute for Contemporary Arts in London, proposing the simple act of making a salad with the audience. The seemingly mundane task of food preparation was made theatrical, drawing attention to everyday simplicity, and subverting the submissiveness of the stereotype of female domesticity. Make a Salad has since been performed at the Tate Modern in London (2008), on the High Line in New York (2008), and most recently at Art Basel (2016). Knowles’s profound contributions to contemporary art have been honored by, among others, a Guggenheim Grant (1967), two National Endowment for the Arts Grants (1981 and 1985), and a College Art Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2003). In addition to her participation in numerous international exhibitions, a more recent retrospective was held at the BAMPFA – Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, California (2022).