The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

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Important Update

October 17, 2021 to May 8, 2022 | Opatrny Gallery Vestibule, Opatrny Gallery, Sound Gallery

Karla Knight: Navigator

Karla Knight has spent the last forty years creating an impressive body of work that spans painting, drawing and photography. Navigator, her first institutional solo show, will take the form of a focused survey, charting the development of her far-seeing language over a four-decade-long career.


Knight's imagery is steeped in science, the occult, early twentieth century abstraction, Surrealism and Native American art. Her visual language is purposefully impenetrable—she offers no clues or methods to its decoding. For her, its true meaning must remain unnamed, as it is ultimately inspired by “the mysteries and absurdities of life.” Her dense paintings and works on paper swirl with graphic shapes, diagrams, and ciphers that appear both archaic and spaced-aged. The exhibition will track the vast range and evolution of Knight’s pictographic lexicon—the spaceships, floating orbs, and eyeballs, as well as the hieroglyphic-like lists, charts, codes, alphabets, and other invented symbols—that embody these all-over compositions. Similar to the trailblazing abstract artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) and the far-sighted symbolist Agnes Pelton (1881–1961), Knight’s enigmatic image databank channels a passionate engagement with spiritual or nonphysical realms. The exhibition will also debut an entirely new series, featuring what Knight refers to as “tapestries.” Using reclaimed cotton cut from circa 1940s–50s seed and grain bags purchased on eBay, Knight sews pieces together to form a patchwork composition. Unstretched, she draws and paints directly on the surface with flashe, colored pencil, and graphite, while hand embroidering select sections.

The exhibition is curated by Senior Curator Amy Smith-Stewart and will be accompanied by the artist’s first museum publication.



Generous support for Karla Knight: Navigator is provided by The O'Grady Foundation, Diana Bowes and James Torrey, Cynthia Smith, and Ann and Mathew Wolf. The catalogue for Karla Knight: Navigator is generously supported by the Eric Diefenbach and James Keith Brown Publications Fund and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation.

Media support is provided by Connecticut Cottages & Gardens (CTC&G).


Top image: Karla Knight, Tapestry (detail), 2020, Flashe, acrylic marker, pencil, and embroidery on cotton, 72 x 121 inches, Courtesy of the artist