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Zero Group: 7 Major Members

Zero Group: 7 Major Members

The Zero Group was a loosely knit group of artists that emerged in Germany and spread to other European countries between 1957 and 1966. Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker led the group. The artists joined together with the collective desire to move away from subjective postwar movements like the French Art Informel and Tachisme. Their main idea was to create art that was purely about the work’s materials and the world in which those materials exist, de-emphasizing the role of the artist’s hand. The focus was on light, space, and participation.

Heinz Mack

Heinz Mack was born in 1931 in Germany. In 1957, together with Otto Piene, he started a series of what were called Abendausstellungen (evening exhibitions) at their studio in Düsseldorf. This series was the initial event for the formation of the international ZERO movement.

In 1964, Mack, Piene, and Uecker arranged the "ZERO Lichtraum (Hommage á Lucio Fontana)" at the 1964 documenta in Kassel. From 1964 to 1966, Mack lived and worked in New York where the Howard Wise Gallery presented a solo exhibition in 1966.

Although known for his minimalist outdoor sculptures, Mack also produced smaller works, both static and kinetic. Light Dynamo #2 from 1966, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, is an example of his rotating disc kinetic sculptures. Since 1991, he has been producing brightly colored, abstract, paintings in acrylic.

Light Dinamo, 1966, copyright by DACS, 2020

Otto Piene,

Otto Piene was born in 1928 in Germany.

In 1957, Piene developed the Grid Picture, a type of stenciled painting made from half-tone screens with regularly arranged points in single colors (yellow, silver, white, or gold). A well-known example of this style is Pure Energy (1958, New York, MOMA).

Piene experimented with multimedia combinations. In 1963, together with Günther Uecker and Heinz Mack, he became a spokesman of Neuen Idealismus ("the new idealism"). In 1967, Otto Piene premiered Proliferation of the Sun at Aldo Tambellini's Black Gate Theater, and in 1968 he collaborated with Aldo Tambellini on Black Air at the Black Gate Theater. Piene is also noted for having explored new uses for broadcast television. In 1968, Aldo Tambellini and Otto Piene reformatted Black Air as Black Gate Cologne, which is cited as one of the first television programs to have been produced by experimental visual artists. On July 17, 2014, Piene died of a heart attack in a taxi on the way to prepare for the opening of his Sky Art event at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany.

Untitled, 1958, Copyright by Otto Piene

Günther Uecker

Uecker was born in 1930 in Wendorf, Mecklenburg, Germany. As a sculptor, set designer, and kinetic artist, he completed his first artistic studies in Wismar and at the Academy of Berlin-Weissensse from 1949 to 1953, initially producing works in the style of Socialist Realism. In 1957, he began to paint works in white, black, or red with a structure of vertical or horizontal dots or lines that completely cover the surface. In the same year, he made his first works in relief in which he used nails. This was the first step in an experimentation that later led him to place other objects on the surface of the painting, such as corks or cardboard tubes. The surface covered with nails acts as an antithesis to the painted surface and, at the same time, allows the artist to explore the articulation of light through the shadows created by the nails.

Uecker's experimentation is expressed through oscillating structures, chairs, tables, and pianos covered with nails, including, since 1966, projects with the high-frequency current and, since 1969, large outdoor projects. His works also include monochrome relief prints, films and the creation of sets and costumes for the operas Fidelio (1974) and Parsifal (1976).

Otto Piene photographed by Oliver Mark, Düsseldorf_2011

Yves Klein

Yves Klein, born in 1928 in Nice, began vocationally as a judoka, earning the highest honor in the martial art and spending fifteen months in Japan. It was only back in Paris, in 1954, that he dedicated himself fully to art, setting out on his ‘adventure into monochrome.’ Animated by a quest to ‘liberate color from the prison that is the line,’ Yves Klein directed his attention to the monochrome which, to him, was the only form of painting that allowed to ‘make visible the absolute.’ Just before dying, Yves Klein told a friend, "I am going to go into the biggest studio in the world, and I will only do immaterial works."

Portrait of Yves Klein, Copyright by Charles Wilp / BPK, Berlin

Piero Manzoni

Piero Manzoni (July 13, 1933 – February 6,1963) was an Italian, mostly self-taught artist who is best known for his ironic approach to avant-garde art and for his shocking pieces that questioned the nature of art objects.

Manzoni's work deliberately avoids using normal artist's materials. In addition, he pushes the artist's own bodily products to became art (think about the most famous Merda d'Artista, or the use of fingerprints to ensure his works paternity, blood, and breath also figured into his experimental body of work), and in this doing, he clearly accuses the new social, artistic, and economical revolution which infested Italy after the war, creating a never-lived vogue of consumerism.

Piero Manzoni, Linea lunga 7200 metri, Copyright by Jens Cederskjold

Lucio Fontana

Born on February 19th, 1899 and dead on September 7th, 1968, Lucio Fontana was an Argentine-Italian painter, sculptor, and theorist. He is mostly known as the founder of Spatialism. Fontana engaged in many collaborative projects with the most important architects of the day, in particular with Luciano Baldessari, who shared and supported his research for Spatial Light – Structure in Neon (1951) at the 9th Triennial and, among other things, commissioned him to design the ceiling of the cinema in the Sidercomit Pavilion at the 21st Milan Fair in 1953.

Around 1960, Fontana began to reinvent the cuts and punctures that had characterized his highly personal style up to that point, covering canvases with layers of thick oil paint applied by hand and brush and using a scalpel or Stanley knife to create great fissures in their surface.

Lucio Fontana photographed by Ugo Mulas, Milan 1964

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (born March 22nd 1929) is a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but she is also active in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. Her work is based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism. Her work is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan. She moved to New York City in 1958 and was a part of the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, especially in the pop-art movement.

Kusama has been open about her mental health. She says that art has become her way to express her mental disease.

Yayoi Kusama Signing an exhibit, Copyright by CC BY 2.0


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