Formed by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the ZERO movement rejected the gestural language of abstract expressionism and instead sought for an artistic purity in the wake of the trauma of the Second World War. Admired by artists such as Gerhard Richter, Robert Smithson and James Turrell and characterised by a minimalist, monochromatic aesthetic and a reverence for the power of light, Mack described the movement as “the adventure of seeking out and discovering the still-white spaces on the map of art”.
Having last year developed the striking The Sky Over Nine Columns installation for the 2014 Venice Biennale, Mack now presents ZERO & MORE: tracing a line between iconic works from his ZERO period (1950-60s), and the paintings and sculptures that he has produced over the last five years.
Termed ‘instruments of light’ by the artist himself, each varied piece explores the myriad values of colour and motion: in his early work, Mack brings a vibrating force to black and white through a tension of static elements, for example fine vertical lines create an effect of undulation in cloth work Vibration (1957-58) – a delicate contrast to the powerful optical spectacle of Untitled (1959).
This rendering of movement is developed further in Mack’s sculptures and reliefs; in works which incorporate polished metals, glass, plastic and the refraction of light, Mack finds ‘ideal visualisation’ or a spiritual appreciation of luminous objects. Such luminosity is central to Silber-Rotor (1964-1980), where serrated plexiglass draws light into multiple crosscurrents.
Mack returned to painting in the early 1990s with his Chromatic Constellation works, influenced by the bright hues of the Mediterranean. Empire Couleur (Chromatic Constellation) (2014) allows transition in tone to create the illusion of movement, demonstrating the artist’s investigation into prismatic refraction which also informs his most recent black and white works such as Untitled (Chromatic Constellation) (2014) which comprises a dynamic play of patchwork.
Heinz Mack, ZERO & MORE, 6 February – 10 April, Ben Brown Fine Arts, 12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG.
To find out more, visit www.benbrownfinearts.com.
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1. Heinz Mack, Untitled, 1959, linol-colour on paper laid down on canvas, 31.8 x 39.3 cm. Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts.