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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION

Günther Uecker
NAGELOBJEKT
JUMP TO LOT
23

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION

Günther Uecker
NAGELOBJEKT
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Günther Uecker
B. 1930
NAGELOBJEKT
signed and dated 58 on the reverse by the artist at a later date
nails and acrylic on canvas laid down on board
51.5 by 52.5 cm. 20 1/4 by 20 5/8 in.
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Provenance

Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf

Baum Collection, Wuppertal

Galerie Jöllenbeck, Cologne

Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1978

Catalogue Note

Created in 1958, Nagelobjekt is one of the very first examples of Günther Uecker's archetypal nail reliefs. During the early 1960s Uecker became a leading figure in the postwar innovation for an artistic tabula rasa. United under the aegis of ZERO and comprising fellow artists Otto Peine and Heinz Mack, this German-born movement strove to pare artistic creation back to the most primal and elemental facets of visual perception: light, shadow, and movement. For Uecker, who began incorporating these mass-produced and industrial items into his work around 1957, nails were the perfect means to express the concerns of ZERO, and, to this day, they remain his favoured medium. As stated by the artist: “[The nail is] the ideal object with which to model light and shadow – to make time visible[…] It protrudes as a tactile feeler from the flat surface, much like a sundial” (Günther Uecker cited in: Alexander Tolnay, Ed., Günther Uecker Twenty Chapters, Ostfildern-Ruit 2006, p. 72). In the present work a jutting landscape comprising countless positioned and angled nails is transformed by a dramatic chiaroscuro, an effect dependent upon the subject’s viewpoint and the direction and strength of the surrounding light source. With an almost ritualistic repetition, Uecker hammered in nails at slanting angles and various depths to create an engaging duality of linear structure and organic form.

In the wake of World War II, many European artists began looking for an artistic expression that would satisfy their need for a new beginning, a base ‘zero’, free from the gestural brushwork and pictorial sentimentality of the Tachisme and Art Informel movements that had proliferated during the 1940s and ‘50s. This was nowhere achieved more pertinently as in the ZERO Group. As succinctly summarised by Otto Piene: “Zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new” (Otto Piene, ‘Die Entstehung der Gruppe ‘Zero,’’ The Times Literary Supplement, 3 September 1964). Originally founded in 1957 by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, Uecker joined the group in 1961. Whilst Uecker, Mack and Piene formed the core of the group, other artists – such as Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Pol Bury and Daniel Spoerri – became associated with the movement through exhibitions and a likeminded approach to art making. Seeking to discover an entirely new creative language unencumbered by extraneous concerns and traditional ideas of representationZERO artists employed light and motion as a means to radicalise artistic expression. Pure colour and light was seen as the essence of cosmic power and became synonymous with the spiritual liberation of the individual. As outlined by Uecker: “My objects are spatial realities, zones of light. I use mechanical means in order to overcome the subjective gesture, to objectify it, and to create the situation of freedom” (Günther Uecker cited in: ibid, p. 54).

The group’s name aptly referenced the countdown for a rocket launch and advocated a radical new beginning for modern art. The first major exhibition of ZERO works in the United States, ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, at the Guggenheim New York from October 2014 to January 2015, catapulted the ZERO artists to wider international fame. That same year Günther Uecker’s works were recognised with a major exhibition at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Dusseldorf, in which his breath-taking nail reliefs presented a visual biography of the artist’s idiosyncratic oeuvre.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London