Hypnotic Voyage: Knigin’s ethereal images


Michael Knigin’s collaged landscapes may be abstract by definition, yet they feel like places that might exist in some other dimension. In a single image, he assembles many elements — paint strokes on paper, classical objects like Bernini sculptures or photos of mountains and living things in nature. 

Though there are elements of the familiar within his work, the parts are rearranged and revisited, offering viewers a stark new vision of places they have never been before — or perhaps they have.  

From social commentary to the intellectual or the purely emotional, Knigin presents his collages in series — be it flowers, fireworks, classical sculpture or, in the case of a new show opening at the Romany Kramoris Gallery, abstract landscapes.

“You jump right in to his work,” says Kramoris, curator of the exhibit which comes to her gallery after a run at the Montauk Yacht Club. “Somehow it’s like being on top of a roller coaster.”

“It’s landscapes that collide,” she adds. “It’s not a real world. There’s definitely the feel of surrealism where things don’t belong but are put together.”

“I think the most fascinating thing about Michael’s work is you feel the loss of gravity,” she adds. “It’s like you’re up there floating in another world. You feel that kind of release from the earth — the weight of problems — you’re drawn into a hypnotic voyage.” 

It’s perhaps no accident that Knigin’s landscapes resemble something that might have been sent back to earth by the Hubble telescope. In fact, Knigin has been fascinated by rockets, jet planes and all things related to space for as long as he can remember. 

In 1988, Knigin’s space dreams were realized when he was invited by the head of NASA’s art team to travel to Cape Canaveral in Florida and work with four other artists to interpret the launch of the shuttle Discovery — the first after the Challenger disaster in 1986.

“It was something I was always interested in — space, airplanes, anything cosmic,” says Knigin. “When I went down there, we got clearance to go into the vehicle assembly building where they put the external tanks on the shuttle. We took videos and stills, then stayed for the launch. We were two miles away, which is close as you can get with clearance. The public has to be seven miles away.”

“It was an unbelievable experience. The ground literally shakes when it takes off,” adds Knigin. “I was called back in ‘92 to cover the touch down of Atlantis. We created artwork from our experiences and that goes into the Smithsonian Museum.” 

“But my work’s not just about jets and planes,” he adds. “It’s also about the unknown, the spiritual, and hopefully that  comes out.”

“Abstract Landscapes” opens with a reception at Kramoris Gallery (41 Main Street, Sag Harbor) on Saturday, October 25 from  4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The show runs through November 10.

Above: “Night & Dreams” by Michael Knigin