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. Another 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 and puncturing 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.
A white washed relief suffused by a vivid interplay of light and dark, Bewegtes Feld 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, op cit. 2006, p. 54). Untitled 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 is fixed into the board with physical force and exertion, yet together they appear dynamic with 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. This classic Uecker work truly shows this celebrated German artist at his height - as a master of optical manipulation, light and shadow, and frozen movement
A lyrical coalition of the primary principles of Uecker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre, Bewegtes Feld 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.
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