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Savannah Knoop’s practice consistently centers itself within questions of intimacy. Whether through performance—where they draw on both art historical models and their decades-long training in jiu jitsu—or the recent sculptural work on view in this exhibition, Knoop deploys improvisation and proximity as strategies in the making and activation of their work.
From the “Rocking Tails,” which vibrate with kinetic potential, to Giant Newspaper Tarp/ Shower Curtain (2020/21) (2021), which dominates the Bell Gallery, Knoop imbues their objects with a choreographic sensibility, one that reveals their history as a trained dancer and athlete. Though the tails are meant to invite viewer participation, Knoop’s more recent weavings of resin-coated newspapers deny audience handling in their fragility. These paper “textiles” are pages soaked and rubbed in the artist’s perspiration and oils, rolled and massaged along their body to create long, thin, malleable threads that are then plasticized. Knoop began to experiment with this material in 2018, and their obsessive accumulation of “news” alongside the secretion of bodily substances that transform the paper into a more pliable, pulpy state has absorbed an ominous tone over the last year.
SCREENS: A PROJECT ABOUT “COMMUNITY” (2019) compiles tender footage of the Lower East Side bathhouse that Knoop frequents. Wet, semi-nude people joyously, and often fiercely, debate politics, with newspapers in multiple languages used as impromptu towels for soaking up excess water and sweat. This imagery inspired the exhibition’s massive central installation, a warp and weft of The New York Times covers collected from December 2019 to December 2020—marking a significant period of the pandemic—and glistening with resin as if waterlogged and on the verge of collapse.
Savannah Knoop (b. 1981, San Francisco; lives New York) is an artist and educator working in film, sculpture, writing, and performance. They have exhibited and performed at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Artist Curated Projects, Los Angeles; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, Movement Research, and Leslie Lohman Museum, New York.
Savannah Knoop: Soothing the Seams is curated by Kate Kraczon, Acting Director and Curator.