In 1959, Julije Knifer arrived at the basic compositional format that he would use exclusively for the rest of his life: a minimal meander motif in white on a black background, or vice versa. Knifer conceived of the meander works as a form of “anti-painting,” in which he would repeatedly execute permutations on a readymade system. The reductive geometric form of the meander was an ironic response to both the neo-constructivist geometric abstraction that dominated Croatian art of the late 1950s and 1960s and the utopian aspirations of prewar avant-gardes, who equated the pursuit of formal purity with transformative social progress. By contrast, Knifer’s meander is insistently monotonous and unoriginal, becoming increasingly meaningless through its endless repetition. Knifer’s turn to the meander coincided with his involvement with the proto-conceptual artist group Gorgona, active in Zagreb from 1959 to 1966. The group’s collaborative activities were carried out largely in secret, a deliberate choice that reflected its nihilistic, anti-art stance.
Meandar u kutu (1961) was a breakthrough work for Knifer, allowing the meander to escape the boundaries of the canvas an instead to invade the surrounding space. The black meander pattern, set against a white background, continues uninterrupted across the work’s two panels, which are installed to form a right angle in the corner of the gallery. By using the corner in this work, he emphasized that this was not merely the representation of a motif but instead a concrete manifestation of it that carried no additional symbolism or significance.