Lot 32
  • 32

GÜNTHER UECKER | Weißes Feld (White Field)

680,000 - 750,000 GBP
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  • Günther Uecker
  • Weißes Feld (White Field) 
  • signed, titled and dated 82 on the reverse
  • nails and oil on canvas laid down on wood 
  • 154 by 154 by 21.2 cm. 60 7/8 by 60 7/8 by 8 1/4 in.


Helge Achenbach, Dusseldorf (acquired directly from the artist) 
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1983


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection reveals a few unobtrusive specks of loss in places to the nails, and some spots of minor wear in isolated places to the overturn edges. Further close inspection reveals a superficial layer of dust to the nails. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Created in 1982, Weiβes Feld (White Field) is a prime example of Günther Uecker’s archetypal nail reliefs. One of the central proponents of the ZERO movement, alongside fellow artists Otto Peine and Heinz Mack, Uecker 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, 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. For Uecker, the nail presented what he termed “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 dense 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 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.).

Comprising a white-washed relief suffused by a vivid interplay of light and dark, Weiβes Feld reflects the primary concerns of the ZERO movement. Considered to be the very essence of cosmic power, light and colour would become synonymous for the ZERO artists 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, op. cit. 2006, p. 54). Weiβes Feld endures as a model of subtle elegance and dynamism, a lyrical work that is at once static, where the artist encourages the viewer to walk around and experience the piece. Each of the nails was affixed to the board with physical force and exertion, yet together as a final composition they appear dynamic, their ambulatory patterns creating an effect that forever refuses to abate. From every angle the viewer discovers a new mix of patterns, motions and shadows. It is this optical effect that invites the viewer's eye to roam across the surface of the work, seeking new relationships between volume and shadow. A lyrical coalition of the primary principles of Uecker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre, Weiβes Feld affords a revolutionary departure from the conventional concepts of pictorial space. It is a poetic embodiment of the meditative power of art.

This work is registered in the Uecker Archiv under the number GU.82.127 and will be noted for inclusion in the forthcoming Uecker Catalogue Raisonné.