By the mid 1960s, the Zero movement had evolved and expanded exponentially beyond its three-person origins in Dusseldorf to become an international Post-War tendency - one that effectively signalled the early stages of the art world transforming into a global community no longer precluded by national boundaries. At its centre in The Netherlands was Jan Schoonhoven, a part-time artist and full-time postal service employee, who in 1961 formed with 5 other artists a Dutch Zero contingent which they called Nul, the Dutch word for Zero.
Taking its inspiration from the regularity and order he perceived around him in the fabric of modern living, Schoonhoven's work sought to form a bridge between art and contemporary society through a universal abstract visual language that was both devoid of emotion and filled with infinite possibilities of interpretation. Using an impersonal and entirely novel approach to art making that combined painting and sculpture, his exquisitely hand-crafted monochrome papier-mâché reliefs possess an internal harmony, whose sense of purity is carefully balanced by their delicate surfaces and subtle tonal movement.
Created during the pinnacle of his career, the present Weißes Strukturrelief R 62-1 relief is amongst the most complex works Schoonhoven engineered. In it he develops the basic grid structure of his earlier constructions to instigate a more dynamic and rhythmical interchange between the front and rear surfaces that encourages the eye to wander and explore across its soft and tactile surfaces. It was never Schoonhoven's goal to create new forms through his art. Rather when returning from his structured day job at the PTT, he created reliefs whose order was deducted from everyday objects such as the wall grills, postal-sorting boxes and Venetian blinds of his quotidian environment. In the true spirit of Zero, he wished to unveil and underline to humanity the easily overlooked beauties of modern life, and this important work stands a superb testament to the enduring relevance and influence of his work.
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