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Guide to the Christopher Knowles Papers, 1973-2015 (bulk 1973-1990) MSS.414

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2596

Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Sophie Glidden-Lyon.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on March 14, 2019
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Edited by Craig Savino to incorporate processed books  , January 2019

Scope and Content

The collection contains material pertaining to Knowles professional work as an artist. However, much of that work was done as a young adolescent, which is reflected throughout the collection. His journals are a repository for his artwork as well as his personal life and contain reflections of his exhibited or performed art. There is material relating to the many performances in which he took part, including programs, press, reviews, source material, scripts, photographs and publicity. Some of the performances include "Einstein on the Beach," "The $ Value of Man," "A Letter for Queen Victoria," "Dialog/Curious George," and "Parzival." Many of these were collaborations with Robert Wilson. In addition to the paper material related to his performances, there are video and sound recordings of shows, as well as recordings that Knowles used as a part of his performances.

Knowles produced a large portfolio of paintings and drawings in addition to his performance art. The collection includes material documenting his exhibitions, both domestic and international, including press, gallery cards, exhibit catalogs and correspondence. There are photographs of his exhibited work, as well as slides, in addition to marker, pen and crayon drawings. Notably, Knowles created what are called "Typings," made with a typewriter and most commonly using the letter "c" to create designs and images. This collection contains quite a few typings, as well as typewritten poetry and some prose.

Correspondence includes letters, cards and postcards both sent and received by Knowles. Notable correspondence includes Jasper Johns, John Cage, Robert Wilson and Cindy Lubar. Knowles also designed and created a large number of birthday and father's day cards, as well as invitations to his shows and his own birthday parties.

Photographs include many taken of Knowles and his family, as well of images of his art. There are photographs of performances and rehearsals, international exhibits and shows, in addition to family vacations and his home in Brooklyn. There is a small amount of material relating to Knowles' personal life, including medical and educational information and resumes.


This collection is arranged into 14 series:

SERIES I: Journals
SERIES II: Performance
Subseries A: Performance with Christopher Knowles
Subseries B: Performance without Christopher Knowles
SERIES III: Exhibitions
SERIES V: Correspondence
SERIES VII: Personal
SERIES VIII: Photographs
Subseries A: Photographs
Subseries B: Slides
SERIES IX: Sound recordings
SERIES X: Video recordings
SERIES XI: Data storage
SERIES XII: Sound and Video Preservaion
SERIES XIII: 2016 Accession SERIES XIV: Books

The material is arranged chronologically with the exceptions of Series II, Series IX, Series X, and Series XIV which are all arranged alphabetically. Series XIII has not been arranged by an archivist, and remains in the order in which it was received. Original order, as dictated by Knowles and a consulting archivist, was preserved wherever possible. Oversize material is arranged at the end, under the corresponding series number. There is also oversize material in map case 2D. Video and sound recordings, as well as the data storage, were left in the original order as received from the donor and given ID numbers.