John Knuth’s creative conjurings challenge traditional notions of art making, even in this millennium. His paintings force extreme tension between the sacred and the profane, creating stunning works by way of indelicate techniques. Knuth’s mission is to take something traditionally regarded as base, and to make it into something magnificent, where the materials feel secondary to the radical result. Knuth’s approach is alchemical. Like an art world diviner, he conjures the elements, from making burn paintings with distress flares and metallic space blankets to using fly regurgitation to make the most incandescent, shimmering paintings. He has perfected his process using flyspeck, which can be said to fall within the art historical continuum that includes the Pre-Raphaelites’ Mummy Brown or Chris Ofili’s elephant dung.
Knuth devised a truly unique process to create his latest works, one that begins with mail-ordering hundreds of thousands of maggots. These are placed in a specially built enclosure consisting of two facing canvases encased in netting and are allowed to develop into mature houseflies. Knuth’s flies feed on a steady diet of sugar water infused with watercolor paint, which they continually ingest and regurgitate over the course of two to three months. These tiny regurgitations cover the canvases in a pointillist haze inspired by the smog of Los Angeles. The artist relishes the unpredictable outcomes of
these fly works, likening the flies’ organic chaos to the hectic nature of the modern urban environment. The works are landscapes that explore the boundary between beauty and decay, and the line between attraction and revulsion.
John Knuth was born in 1978 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He received an MFA from University of Southern California and a BFA from the University of Minnesota. Knuth’s recent solo exhibitions include Powerplant at Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy; Base Alchemy at 5 Car Garage, Santa Monica, CA; Master Plan at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago, IL; Elevated Uncertainty at Marie Kirkegaard, Copenhagen, Denmark; and Fading Horizon at Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA. His works has recently been included in group shows at International Print Center, New York, NY; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; MassArt, Boston, MA; Self-Titled, Tilburg, NL; Loudhailer, Greene Exhibitions, China Art Objects and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
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