- Günther Uecker
- signed, titled and dated 64 on the reverse
- kaolin and nails on canvas on board
Private Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above in 1966)
Thence by descent to the present owner in 2001
Georges Elgozy, ‘De la peinture en mouvement’, Art International, Vol. IX/8, 20 November 1965, n.p., (text)
In the wake of World War II, many artists were striving 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 proliferated during the 1950s. This was nowhere achieved as 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, n.p.). Herein, the group’s name aptly referenced the countdown for a rocket launch and advocated a radical new beginning for modern art. The artist who is considered the trailblazer of this new form of artistic expression and who worked closely with the ZERO group’s ‘inner core’ was Lucio Fontana. Fontana’s drastic slashing of the canvas offered a philosophical glimpse into the infinite void beyond and radically changed the discourse of painting. A generation older, Fontana is heralded as a forefather and mentor to Italy’s Azimuth, as well as Germany’s ZERO artists. Interestingly, he was indeed an early collector of Heinz Mack’s work, having (unbeknownst to Mack) bought a work by the artist from his first Paris show.
A white washed relief suffused by a vivid interplay of light and dark, Rose reflects the primary concerns of the ZERO movement. 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: Alexander Tolnay, Ed., Günther Uecker Twenty Chapters, Ostfildern-Ruit 2006, p. 54). Rose endures as a model of subtle elegance and dynamism. A duality of rhythmic structure and loose chaos creates a dynamic effect that is as vigorous as it is enthralling. With an almost ritualistic repetition Uecker hammered in nails at slanting angles and various depths. The jutting landscape of nails is transformed by a dramatic chiaroscuro effect, which varies depending on view point and position of light and delivers an entirely unique visual experience. As described by Uecker, 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: Ibid, p. 72).
A lyrical coalition of the primary principles of Uecker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre, Rose affords a revolutionary departure from the conventional concepts of pictorial space. It is a poetic embodiment of the meditative powers of art, whose spiritual enterprise finds a subtly differing ontological response in every viewer.