How many billboards?
Photo: Gerard Smulevich

John Knight

Since the late 1960s, John Knight has engaged institutional critique-a strand of Conceptual Art that takes the art establishment as its subject of investigation. Through nuanced intercessions into the mechanisms of display and visual communication, his practice unpacks conventions and codes that give art its value, using art as a platform to reflect upon larger political and economic systems. Working "in situ," each project is based on analysis and intervention specific to the venue at hand; its aesthetic logic takes its cues from the structure of that of the gallery, museum, or other exhibition venue. For the duration of How Many Billboards?, Knight has donated his billboard to the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 to benefit children of the Middle East. In return, MECA chose to display a public relations ad to bring awareness to their MAIA project, which works to install water desalinization and purification systems in Gaza schools, kindergartens, and nurseries. Knight's gesture creates a paradoxical condition where the billboard is both the thing itself-an ad for a humanitarian organization-yet at the same time it is still a work of art. As an ad that points to the very real crisis of global water shortage, it serves to critique the exhibition itself, suggesting that the strategy employed by How Many Billboards?, which aims to reclaim media space for art, ultimately serves the same economy of meaning that leaves art aloof from politics and without any real ability to affect change on a structural level. Whether a work of art or a public relations ad, the gesture isolates the function of the billboard itself as a means of communication, and points to the ways in which its existence has become naturalized and its domination of public space unquestioned.
By Nizan Shaked

LOCATION: Sunset Blvd, west of Havenhurst Dr, on the south side of the street, facing west.
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John Knight (b. 1945)
Since the late 1960s, the project of John Knight has managed to negate easy categorization by establishing a critical distance from the overly generalized label of Conceptual Art. Instead, Knight assumes a more singular position, by re-employing object/subjects within the vernacular, beyond the simple reinterpretation of the readymade or simulacra. Recent projects include shows at Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles (2009); Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2009); Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, Berlin (2009); Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich (2008); Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló (2008).
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