'With the Knot Paintings, I always tend to think of them in a funny sort of way as the Levine lexicon, that they are such a perfect representation of something that is incredibly essential in the way that the artist makes her work... They're completely pragmatic, and at the same time the pragmatism is what contains the poetry... There's a different way in terms of how she's picking out those knots to create the pattern, to create the bytes in the story. I mean so you could also think of these really almost as computer notations - it's up to you what they put together Is it a kind of Morse code for, 'Have a great day,' or Morse code for, 'It's always rougher than you think it's going to be.' The possibilities for all of these interpretations are there, and yet they are simply a fact. You know, wood is a fact. A knothole in a piece of wood is a fact. And then Sherrie just does one tiny thing, and the fact becomes a poem' (R. Flood, quoted in Audio guide for Sherrie Levine: Mayhem, Knot Paintings, Whitney Museum, New York, 2010. Reproduced at: http://whitney.org).
Executed in 1989, Untitled (Copper Knots #5) is a rhythmic disposition of knots shining in burnished copper against natural wood. Reducing the composition, Levine meticulously hand-paints the organic whorls formed in the wood-grain of natural plywood boards. Sharing a conceptual relationship with Minimalist abstraction through its monochromatic fields of colour and the reductive, industrial materials of Minimalist sculpture, the Knot Paintings are defined purely through the treatment of the surface, its singular presence created through its materiality. In doing so, Levine is able to eliminate hierarchical relationships between the elements of colour and form. The shimmering amber balances the raw tactility of the wood, the two distinct surfaces forming a richly complex wholeness. Untitled (Copper Knots #5) was exhibited at the Whitney Biennale in 1989. The celebrated Knot Paintings series, which began in 1984 has been highlighted in the major international retrospective of the artist's work Sherrie Levine: Mayhem at the Whitney Museum, New York, 2010, and are included in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.