The “Meanders” of Julije Knifer

Gorgona No. 2, 1961, featuring Julije Knifer. Image courtesy MoMA. 


One of the foremost Croatian artists of the 20th century, Julije Knifer sought to remove all expressive elements from his painting, a pursuit that led him to create variations of a single abstract form that he dubbed "the meander." Beginning in 1960, Knifer dedicated himself to exclusively investigating the maze-like arrangement, composed only of vertical and horizontal lines, which he rendered through mediums including printmaking, oil and acrylic painting, and even collage. As Galerie Frank Elbaz put it, "[for Knifer] the meander was a key to a world in which chronology had no meaning, and a way of creating works that were beyond their singular self, but part of a group of works that he continued to paint until the very last days of life." 

Knifer was a founding member of the Croation art collective Gorgona, an avant-garde group active from 1959 to 1966. Gorgona was responsible for the publication of an eponymous "anti-magazine" that featured one work per issue – the second issue of Gorgona featured one of Knifer's meanders printed on interior pages that were connected in a loop instead of bound. Prior to his death in 2004, Knifer showed internationally, including at the Venice Biennale in 1976 and 2001.