As a child, John Knuth was fond of exploring the wilderness around his Minnesota home, and this wide-eyed fascination with the natural world informs his artistic practice. His recent show at Five Car Garage in Santa Monica, “Base Alchemy,” featured meditative, minimal works that meld gleeful, scientific experimentation with a reductive, formalist aesthetic. The exhibition featured two bodies of work – fly paintings consisting of fields of dots made by thousands of flies who are fed, and then regurgitate, a mixture of paint and sugar, and mirror-like Mylar paintings which Knuth burned with signal flares, causing violent ruptures in their surfaces. Both Mylar (used in emergency blankets) and the flares are survival tools, used when the natural world puts up a threatening challenge to human mastery over it.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Knuth introduced a number of albino morph California Kingsnakes into the gallery for a one-day performance. These animals are bred specifically to accentuate their recessive genes, giving them colors that would never be found in nature. Filmmaker Andy Featherston created a video pairing the gorgeous, writhing snakes with Knuth’s alchemical creations, thereby revealing the beauty and violence inherent in the manipulation of nature.