Posts Tagged ‘Heinz Mack’

Art | Zero’s Heinz Mack

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Heinz Mack in his
Düsseldorf studio, 1959

Photo Archive Heinz Mack



Heinz Mack ‘Spectrum’ (1950-2016)
Galerie Perrotin, Paris
Paris | France
23 April > 4 June 2016



Parallelogramm, Heinz Mack, 2016
Stainless steel.
View of the exhibition ‘Spectrum’
at Galerie Perrotin, Paris.
Photo Claire Dorn



Until recent years there was a great big hole in our art education. It is gradually being filled with ZERO – something to celebrate.

The resurgence of interest in the highly-influential European-based ZERO art movement founded in the 1950s, but which by the mid-1970s had all but disappeared, was probably the result of the 2010 sale of the Gerhard and Anna Lenz collection of ZERO art at Sotheby’s in London, in the wake of which major retrospective exhibitions at The Guggenheim in New York, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk, Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, and the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris all followed.

The shows at these prominent institutions, however, as opposed to being about any single artist within the group, have all been mixed. In fact, aside from a solo exhibition this year in Istanbul, and others in equally obscure locations, such as Teheran (2001), ZERO’s visionary founding member, the German Heinz Mack (b 1935), hasn’t had a major one-man show outside of Germany since 1973 – an oversight which this new show at Paris’s prestigious Galerie Perrotin, will go some way to putting right.

Destined to become a significant contributor to the history of 20th century art, having attended the Arts Academy in Düsseldorf, Heinz Mack studied philosophy in Cologne in the mid-1950s and afterwards began to create paintings, reliefs, and sculptures exploring the effects of light, reflections and movement. He first experimented with spatial art through light reliefs and light cubes in polished aluminium in 1958, creating ambiguous works that were difficult to fix mentally or to record photographically.

Mack’s first solo exhibition in 1957 at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, was soon followed by others in Paris, London and, in 1966, New York, where from 1964 > 65 he had briefly lived. However, since the 1966 show, Mack’s work has only appeared in America amongst that of many others in 2001 at MoMA and at Los Angeles County Museum in 2004, as well as, of course, in the 2014, much-belated, first ever, large-scale exhibition in the United States of the group’s work, ZERO – Countdown to tomorrow, 1950-1960s, at The Guggenheim.

Lamellenrelief, Heinz Mack, 1963
Aluminium, wood, perspex.
Photo Pierre Antoine



Lichtgitter-Relief, Heinz Mack, 1984
Varnished steel, brass, wood.
Photo Pierre Antoine



Lichtskulptur, 2001
(Detail – replica of the
lost original model from 1976)
Embossed, anodised,
silver-coloured aluminium,
stainless steel.
Photo Archive Heinz Mack



The apparent American ambivalence toward Mack and ZERO’s work throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s may have its roots in the late 1940s, when, post World War II, for the first time the locus of contemporary art shifted from Paris to New York, where abstract expressionism – often referred to as the first specifically American art movement to achieve international influence – and the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, was the big draw. ZERO formed by Heinz Mack with Otto Piene, later joined by Günther Uecker, which came to number among many others Yves Klein and Jesús Rafael Soto as members, argued that art should be void of colour, emotion and individual expression, thus placing itself in direct opposition to abstract expressionism, and anathema in the USA. Minimalism and pop art, too, had by the end of the 1950s become powerful forces in the United States and would further strengthen New York’s impregnable position as the world’s art capital – a position it would not willingly relinquish and one which, at the time, and for the next couple of decades, it was easily able to defend.

In recognition of his international importance, in 1970, Mack represented Germany at The Venice Bienale, but, despite having created groundbreaking abstract work, and productions – via his numerous excursions to the Sahara and the Arctic – and actions that foreshadowed land art, as well as having anticipated aspects of minimalism and conceptual art was largely ignored in the US. Over time ZERO itself would disintegrate. Heinz Mack has not been idle, however, and at his studios in Mönchengladbach and Ibiza has continued his systematic and sensual exploration of reflection, and the chromatic light spectrum and its perceptive thresholds, areas in which his contemporary artist heirs, such as Olafur Eliasson, are also active.

Heinz Mack ‘Spectrum’ (1950-2016), curated by Matthieu Poirier, at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, exhibits more than 70 works, including some early pieces that have never previously been shown in public.

All images © Heinz MACK / ADAGP, Paris, 2016, courtesy Galerie Perrotin


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Art | ZERO

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1961
Fibreglass wool in artist’s box
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Manzoni Family, 1993, 93.4225
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS) / SIAE Rome




ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s
Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
10th October 2014 > 7th January 2015




However much we deplore them and the death and destruction they represent, wars are often the catalysts for new developments in art. Wars, in terms of art, therefore, have a positive as well as a negative value. Before them comes the art of anger, protest and propaganda; during, the art that strives to represent the truth of the situation – from whichever viewpoint the artist is in sympathy with – after, comes the art created out of the need to move on; an experimental period, which can be a tremendously productive one.

Otto Piene, Light Ballet (Light Satellite) (top)
and Light Ballet (Light Drum), 1969
Chrome, glass, and light bulbs
Moeller Fine Art, New York
© Otto Piene
Photo courtesy Moeller Fine Art, New York




Born in the decade when the US government, in its bid to lead the way in the ‘conquest of outer space’ called its pioneering satellite program ‘Vanguard’, ZERO (1957 > 1966) was established in Europe by Düsseldorf-based artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack. Piene explained that by naming the group ZERO, their aim was to suggest ‘pure possibilities for a new beginning, as at the countdown when rockets take off… the zone in which the old turns into the new.’ It would focus on light, movement and space, while closely examining the relationship between man, nature and technology.

In a disfigured country, still reeling from the shockwaves of World War II, in which Germany had been at the epicentre, the core group, later joined by another German, Günther Uecker, fostered connections among artists but stressed individual authorship. It was to attract a related network that would span continents, linking artists in Germany, Italy and The Netherlands to others in Brazil, Japan, and North and South America. ZERO sought to annihilate all forms of representation within art in order to celebrate the possibilities inherent in ‘nothingness’: to move beyond the confines of the canvas and so attempt to penetrate the mysterious concept of the fourth dimension. Fire, earth and air would figure prominently in their artworks. Through connected artists such as Yves Klein – who also became a member of French art movement Nouveau RéalismeJean Tinguely, and Lucio Fontana, ZERO would re-define painting, explore the monochrome, and serial structures, and produce artworks made from flames and smoke, filling whole galleries with their environmental works, they would turn to the deserts and skies as viable sites for art. Highly influential, one 1961 show, ZERO: Edition, Exposition, Demonstration, held both inside and outside Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, in which performers marked out a ‘Zero zone’ with white paint around other participants, blew bubbles and launched a balloon into the night sky was witnessed by artist Joseph Beuys – who had his first one man show that year and started to give action-performances in 1963 – and Nam Juin Paik, Korean founder of video art.

Yves Klein, Untitled red monochrome (M 63), 1959
Dry pigment in synthetic resin on board
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Andrew Powie Fuller and Geraldine Spreckels
Fuller Collection, 1999, 2000.28
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / ADAGP, Paris




Lichtraum; Hommage à Fontana / Light Room: Homage to Fontana (1964) , being shown for the first time in the United States, in the forthcoming Guggenheim exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s > 1960s, is an installation containing a projection of a painting by Lucio Fontana, and individual contributions by Mack, Piene, and Uecker, as well as the only two works produced in collaboration by the trio. The piece is particularly significant as an expression of the genesis of the group’s philosophy. In 1949, Fontana, the man who later dismissed Jackson Pollock – generally regarded as the most forward-thinking painter of the early 1950s – as merely ‘post-impressionist’, had written, ‘I assure you that on the moon… they will not be painting, but making spatial art.’ ‘Spazialismo,’ as he christened his own movement, established in 1947, he explained, ‘would be an art contained in space in all its dimensions.’ In 1956 > 57, also anticipating the ZERO movement’s aims, another Italian artist and later group member, Piero Manzoni had determined to find a means of expressing the power of the subconscious via the creation of completely subjectless work that emphasised the surface and materials as the only focus of the piece.

In his book, Space Age Aesthetics (2009), author Stephen Peterson tells us that in the year of Lichtraum’s creation, philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote ‘There is no longer any sense in talking about the artist’s being ahead of his time. Our technology is, also, ahead of its time,’ which could be taken to signify, whether or not it was true, that the writing was already on the wall for ZERO’s demise that followed, two years later, in 1966.

Heinz Mack, New York, New York, 1963
Aluminium and wood
Private collection
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo Heinz Mack




Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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