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John Knuth


Los Angeles | August 30 - October 10 2014

John Knuth grew up catching snakes and looking at Andy Warhol books and often describes his approach to art making as a kind of ‘base alchemy’. His artwork entails an unusual amalgamation of ingredients (often sourced from the natural world and survival kits), which are then combined ingeniously with a Boy Scouts-inspired approach to DIY science and general outdoor muckery. Magic often results, especially when the humble sources are revealed. Knuth’s interest in material and metaphor are highly influenced by Los Angeles where people and materials are manipulated in extreme ways leading to transcendent and poetic results.

With that in mind, "Base Alchemy,” the artist’s debut exhibition at 5 Car Garage, combines three components: fly paintings, mirror Mylar paintings and the occasional appearance from albino morph California king snakes. For the fly paintings, Knuth raises 500,000 flies from the larval stage and feeds the flies sugar and acrylic paint. Each painting is formed with millions of the resulting flyspeck markings. Their movement is restricted to the surface of the canvas, and the flies regurgitate paint forming densities of compositions that sprawl across the surface of the canvas. While it is a chance-based process, Knuth exercises control through the careful use of color, layering and build-up of paint.

The artist also employs Mylar, the reflective, razor-thin material often used for emergency blankets. When pulled tight it can visually recall the reflective solid quality of a mirror or polished stainless steel. Onto this space-age material, signal flares -- also used in an emergency situations -- disrupt the surface, melting the Mylar and creating tension. The rupture reveals a monochromatic painted surface below. Knuth describes the compositions and colors of these paintings as being “sci-fi sunsets.” The viewer sees themselves and their surroundings reflected in the paintings albeit distorted and ruptured.

There will be intermittent appearances with albino morph California Kingsnakes -- a species native to the Southern California basin and valued for its morph variations, which are prized to breeders and collectors. Boasting colors that do not exist in nature, the animals are selectively bred to highlight and accentuate their recessive genes. Precisely because of their specialized color variations, however, these animals would have no chance of survival in their natural habitat.

John Knuth lives and works in Los Angeles. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago, IL Human Resources in Los Angeles, CA and Marie Kirkegaard in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the coming year he will have solo shows at Brand New Gallery in Milan, Italy and The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA.