Christopher Knowles (New York, 1959) started playing a significant role in the late 1970s New York avant-garde as an artist (exhibiting with Holly Solomon) and as a performer (collaborating with theatre director and playwright Robert Wilson). As a matter of fact part of the libretto of the world-famous opera Einstein on the Beach was written by Knowles.
Wilson describes his discovery of the then 13-year-old Knowles: "In early 1973 a man ... gave me an audio tape ... I was fascinated. The tape was entitled Emily Likes the TV. On it a young man's voice spoke continuously creating repetitions and variations on phrases about Emily watching the TV. (…) Like a cantata or a fugue, it worked with conjugations of thoughts repeated in variations; I knew it was clear in his mind, but I couldn’t follow it, so I transcribed the text, and it was visually stunning."
Kowles was diagnosed early on as an autistic, and he did not receive a formal artistic education- instead, he came to the inventive rhythms of language through various everyday means like radio, TV, music, etc. His autistic condition determines the directional audio recordings exhibited at Liste ranging from annotated lists of musical hits to poems rhythmically, mathematically and visually organized, often involving repeated variations on a word or phrase. Furthermore, his paintings are a visual representation of these variations into arrangements of interlocking shapes. The figures seem to emerge from a patchwork of planes and colours that are drawn mostly from autobiographical episodes.
Although still unknown to a general audience, Knowles was subject of a mid-career survey at ICA Philadelphia in 2015 which will travel to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2017. His work is featured in important collections like MoMA, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, and numerous other institutions and private collections.