Morgan Lehman Gallery is pleased to present The Theory of Elegant Design, Phil Knoll’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Knoll’s mixed media works on panel and paper offer a subtle, yet potent combination of wry wit, unapologetic starkness and a bit of complacency to address personal identity, self inquiry, sexuality and death. Cartoon-like characters are presented in both inter-connected and inter-twined situations as well as stoic solitary stances. There is often a dense spacial darkness of graphite or paint supporting the figures, enabling them to confidently float in space. Light tonal rendering in graphite lies atop expanses of acrylic washes. Knoll’s use of graphite encompasses fine line work, stylistic shading, and dense expanses of space, adding to the psychological tone of his personal narratives.
Knoll’s grid-like systems of probing, poking, and prodding figures seem happy to be endlessly violating each other via various orifices and crevices. He begins these works on the lower right hand corner, and then let’s his stream of consciousness unfold before him. The contemporary cartoon artist, Chris Ware, describes the characters in Knoll’s paintings as “…carefully rendered images of woeful homunculi in black voids” and “google-eyed animals with droopy genitals.”
The glaring eyes of octopi, squid, anthropomorphic creatures, and other forms seem to be filled with conflicting emotion – aggression, silliness, strength, and surrender. Loaded political, personal, and philosophical text often participates on the side-lines, revealed in limbs and crevices. The accessibility and light-heartedness in Knoll’s work provides a framework that holds the tension, pain, and pathos of the human condition which he is addressing.
Philip Knoll was born in Mississippi and received his M.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1991. In 1988, he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME. Knoll has shown extensively in the United States including the Palo Alto Art Center, CA; Catherine Clark Gallery, CA; Irving Contemporary, Washington D.C.; and Geoffrey Young Gallery, MA. After many years of living in New York, Knoll currently lives and works in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.