Hartmut Böhm in The Art of Zero, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY


The Art of Zero, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY

Günther Uecker, Nail Structure, 1963
Paint, nails and canvas on wood
21 5/8 x 21 5/8 inches
Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York
Gift from the George and Edith Rickey Collection of Constructivist Art, 1972.05.69

July 13 – September 28, 2014

“It was from the start an open domain of possibilities, and we speculated with the visionary form of purity, beauty and stillness. These things moved us greatly. This was perhaps also a very silent and at the same time very loud protest against Expressionism, against an expression-oriented society.” – Günther Uecker

In the late 1950s Düsseldorf-based artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene debuted their vision of a new aesthetic that attempted to re-harmonize the relationship between humankind and nature in the wake of the devastation of World War II. In a deliberate move away from Expressionism, they proposed starting with a clean slate to create a “new art for a new age.” In a spirit of collaboration and vigorous exchange, progressive artists from Europe, Asia, and the Americas participated in group exhibitions that promoted the synthesis of the arts and sciences with humanity, while remaining faithful to the concept of “finding beauty in everyday life.” Using materials and technology taken from science and industry they explored light, kinetics, and structure in a minimalist practice. The movement, known as Zero, resonated across Europe, with associated groups springing up in Italy, France, and Holland. For Piene, Mack, and Günther Uecker, who made up the German ‘inner circle’, the word Zero was significant on many levels. It represented the ”incommensurable zone in which the old state turns to the new . . . a zone of silence and pure possibilities for a new beginning . . . “ Also, as a numeric symbol, zero signifies “nothing,” an erasure of the past, yet the circular form represents “everything,” a promise for the future of humanity, art, and technology. Further, zero is an internationally recognized word that is not used in the German language, a symbol of their desire to overcome national borders and distance themselves from the Germany of their fathers. The stylistic and conceptual vocabulary of Group Zero has remained an important influence in the development of many other movements, in particular, Minimalism and Conceptual Art.

The Art of Zero is selected from the permanent collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art. This exhibition includes work by artists who were part of or exhibited with Group Zero, including: Getulio Alviani, Hartmut Böhm, Enrico Castellani, Gianni Colombo, Lucio Fontana, Hans Haacke, Heinz Mack, Almir da Silva Mavignier, Henk Peeters, Otto Piene, Jesús Rafael Soto, Luis Tomasello, and Günther Uecker. The Art of Zero is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College, SUNY and curated by Assistant Curator Avis Larson.