The Opening Gallery presents RELATiVE(s) by Christopher Knowles and Sylvia Netzer

Sozita Goudouna
6 min readApr 27, 2024
© Christopher Knowles, Untitled, 2012, courtesy of the artist. Knowles is represented by Bridget Donahue.

RELATiVE(s) by Christopher Knowles and Sylvia Netzer

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

6pm — 8pm

The Opening Gallery is pleased to present RELATiVE(S) by Sylvia Netzer and Christopher Knowles, this exhibition marks the first time that the artists show together. Curated by Dr. Sozita Goudouna, RELATiVE(S) is part of the Opening Gallery’s Watermill Center Season that features exhibitions by Watermill Center affiliated artists: ESTAR(SER)_The Order of The Third Bird and Brian Block.

This momentous dialogue between Knowles and Netzer brings together signal works that explore new perspectives on aesthetic and formal relations as well as on the notion and meaning of relativity in the arts. Looking at the ways in which the two artists have represented and responded to concepts of seriality, repetition, verticality, abstraction and formalism, the exhibition presents a selection of current and past works that explore aesthetic bonds, family relations, personal connection, and love. This insightful exploration showcases the ongoing power of art to transform the lives of collaborating artists, ourselves, and the world around us.


Sylvia and Christopher have known each other since October 1983. They met at Greenwich House Pottery (GHP), where Christopher was a student and Sylvia was teaching. Sylvia first encountered Knowles’ work at Holly Solomon Gallery. The artists shared a love of art, pizza and movies. Despite their age and education differences, they also shared an interest in repetition, seriality, rhythm and humor. Before going to graduate school, Sylvia’s first real job was to work with sick and dying children using art, craft, games, and books at New York — Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. She also had a part time job at the Columbia Psychiatric Institute working on the Pediatric floor. One of the children she worked with was an eleven year old little boy who was autistic and did not speak. Christopher would bring in his drawings and paintings to show his teacher, Karen Dowery at GHP. She invited Sylvia to also see this work which led to her inviting Christopher to come and work with clay in her studio. She would suggest project ideas; one was “transportation.” Knowles made cars, trains, airplanes, buses, skates, skateboards, bicycles, etc. Sylvia and Christopher had fun.

The artists are excited to be showing their work together for the first time ever. As individuals they are very different. Sylvia is a recently retired emeritus professor at City University of New York (CUNY). Robert Wilson took Christopher out of a residential Upstate New York school for “special kids” when Christopher was fifteen. The artists share an art studio in the “flower district” directly under Robert Willson’s offices. Beyond this aesthetic dialogue Christopher and Sylvia spend most of their time together. They often do their artwork together, and separately, in the studio. They comment on each other’s artwork; the color choices, line work, patterning, etc. Certain of Christopher’s painting ideas are generated from family photographs or Sylvia’s suggestions. Sylvia’s work is related to Christopher’s since he is the most important person in her life and clay is a material that lends itself to repetition, seriality, multiplicity, and pattern. Minimalism, Post Minimalism and Pattern Painting was in fashion while Sylvia was at graduate school. According to Netzer ‘showing together is a treat in that it is making us aware of how, without formalizing our easy come and go and flow, we do have a dialogue going in our lives and artwork. We are consistently supportive of one another and each of each other’s artwork.’ Recently, Christopher’s charisma as an autist helped in assessing how many bricks were included in Netzer’s art piece “Olympia,” that is currently presented at the Ford Foundation Gallery. He looked at the sculpture and after a few minutes he said “321 bricks.”


Christopher Knowles

Christopher Knowles is a visual artist, performer, and poet. He has exhibited his works widely throughout the world at museums and galleries including: Kunstverein Langenhagen, Hannover, Germany; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Of Mice and Men: 4th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, England; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York, New York; Office Baroque, Brussels, Belgium; Nogueras Blanchard, Madrid and Barcelona, Spain; Holly Solomon Gallery, New York, New York; and has performed solo or as part of the Byrd Hoffman company extensively, at venues including: White Columns, New York, New York; Thalia Theatre, Hamburg, Germany; The Kitchen, New York, New York; the Louvre Museum, Paris, France; and in touring duets with Robert Wilson the world-over. The artist is represented by Bridget Donahue.

Sylvia Netzer

Sylvia Netzer is an artist, educator, writer, and art critic. Netzer is a native New Yorker. Her parents and family were German-Jewish refugees who were able to come to New York City in 1937 after spending four years in Palestine. Netzer grew up on the Upper West Side near Columbia University. She is a product of NYC’s public school system; The Bronx High School of Science and the City College of New York, where until recently, she was a professor. She earned an MFA degree from Columbia University, School of the Arts, which she was able to afford with her grandmother’s Germain reparations money. Clay has always been her favorite material, especially clay in combination with other mediums. Netzer recently exhibited her work, Goddesses and Emaciation at A.I.R. Gallery, New York, Feb 10 — March 10 2024 and Olympia, Glen Gery at the Ford Foundation Gallery, also in New York, March 5 — May 4, 2024. She is an artist, educator, writer and art critic.

*The Opening Gallery supports neurodiversity, charitable causes and the non-profit Luv Michael which is committed to enriching the lives of autistic adults.

About Us The Opening Gallery, at 42 Walker in Tribeca, New York, is a nonprofit cultural venue and initiative established in 2022, showcasing global and local artists, practice-based research, as well as performance, live events, and educational programs. Exhibited artists are included in US and International museum permanent collections. Exhibitions include visual and performing arts and music events, with monthly public programs spanning a wide range of topics. The Opening Gallery has presented international and US based artists including Andres Serrano, Sagarika Sundaram, Michele Zalopany, Kenneth Goldsmith, John Zorn, The Shoplifter, Luciano Chessa, Daniel Firman, Hans Weigand, Raúl Cordero, Jessica Mitrani, United Nations artist-observer Yann Toma, Warren Neidich, Coleman Collins, Constance DeJong, Charles Gaines, Jimmie Durham, Leslie Hewitt, Jimmy Raskin, Agnieszka Kurant, Olu Oguibe, Martha Rosler, Allen Ruppersberg, Chrysanne Stathacos, Leah Singer, Ronan Day-Lewis, Orit Ben Shitrit, and Bill Hayward. In spring 2024 the gallery presents a selection of Watermill Center former artists-in-residence including Eileen O’ Kane Kornreich, Christopher Knowles with Sylvia Netzer, D. Graham Burnett and “The Order of the Third Bird,” and Brian Block. The Gallery has hosted the New York Arab Festival and events organized by MoMA curators and collaborates with Sorbonne Art Gallery in Paris. The nonprofit cultural venue and initiative supports an heteroclite art ecosystem that attempts to go beyond prevalent gallery models in Tribeca. Proceeds support neurodiversity, charitable causes, and the non-profit Luv Michael, which is committed to enriching the lives of autistic adults.The Opening was founded by Sozita Goudouna, PhD and in 2023 partnered with the London-based publisher Eris to present exhibitions related to publications by Kenneth Goldsmith, Andres Serrano, ORLAN, and Lucas Samaras among other acclaimed contributors and artists. The publishing art program has hosted readings of Edward Said’s poems by Simon Critchley, Stathis Gourgouris, and Udi Aloni, as well as readings of Gabriele Tinti by Vincent Piazza.



Sozita Goudouna

Sozita Goudouna is adjunct professor and the author of Beckett’s Breath (EUP, 2018). She is the founding director of the non profit organization Greece in USA