A - gure who often crops up in interviews with RIBA Gold Medal-winners Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron is the artist Joseph Beuys. They collaborated with him in the late '70s and cite especially his way with materials - copper, felt, fat, etc. There have been many opportunities to see Beuys' work here, but not that of one of his best-known students, Imi Knoebel, so a new show at Leeds' Henry Moore Institute, Imi Knoebel: Primary Structures 1966/2006, certainly fills a gap ( www. henry-moore-fdn. co. uk).
The exhibits at the HMI allude to painting, sculpture and architecture without quite becoming fully edged examples of any of them. As with Beuys, materials are central and deliberately mundane - hardboard, plywood, aluminium and household paint - but Knoebel treats them matter-offactly, not fetishising them like Beuys. A work in the foyer, Red Red, sets the tone. Two oblong aluminium panels, painted different shades of red, are propped side-by-side on an aluminium section halfway up the wall. They mask almost completely two further oblongs on plastic film behind them, one yellow, one blue; just their top edges show. But the vertical division between the blue and yellow doesn't quite align with that of the two red panels, the blue oblong is broader - a matter of millimetres that is the crux of the work. What first looks to be casual must be highly calculated; which is true both of specific pieces here and of their placement overall.
That's certainly the case with the main exhibit, Room 19 III, (above). An assembly of some 300 variously shaped and sized wood and hardboard elements - sheets, stretchers, boxes etc - it occupies all of the last room at the HMI and part of the high adjacent one, like the contents of a warehouse invading the gallery. It's a kit-of-parts with no definitive arrangement; these bits and pieces can be compressed, store-like, as they are at the HMI, or expand to colonise much larger spaces if opportunities arise. Like the templates in architects' pattern books, they're a source of possibilities, of new configurations. And there's a neat complement to Room 19 III in Frederico Câmara's photos, also at the HMI, which touch on some of Knoebel's themes.