In 1958, the artist group ZERO in Düsseldorf launched a new thrust with its actions, exhibitions, and manifestations around the world. The ZERO activists' frames and rooms of traditional art were too narrow for the ZERO activists: "A glance to heaven, the sun, the sea is sufficient to show that the world outside man is greater than that in him." Thus ZERO proclaimed it Founder Otto Piene in 1961 under the title "Ways to Paradise". Building the world of zero, overcoming the shock and pessimism of the immediate post-war years, recaptured an optimistic, trusting technical progress. This was the program of these artists. They focused on the new horizons of the dawning space and information age, experimented with high-tech materials, mobile devices and artificial light, and created complex, natural and technical interaction situations. This radical break with the prevalent doctrines of art and the established art forms of the time, as paralleled in parallel in the USA by Minimalism, prepared the conceptual art as well as the extensions of the art practice in the direction of a process, happening or land art. What began as a progressive-optimistic depoliticization led to the critical re-contextualization of art in social space. ZERO prepared the ground for an artistic work that is related to the system. This approach has not lost its relevance to date, on the contrary.
Born 1931 in Lollar, lives in Mönchengladbach. Heinz Mack studied from 1950 until 1953 in the painting class of the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf which he completed by taking the state examination. Furthermore, in 1956 he took the state examination in philosophy at the University of Cologne. In the same year, he met for the first time Mathieu, Tinguely, and Klein in Paris. After this he applied himself intensively to Informal painting, developing, by the middle of the 50s, his first Dynamic structures, which he transcribed into painting and drawing as well as plaster and metal reliefs. In 1957 he founded the ZERO group together with Otto Piene and with him (and later Uecker) organized the legendary evening exhibitions in the studio in Gladbacher Straße inDüsseldorf. Until 1961 the two artists published in total three editions of the magazine ZERO. At the end of the 50s, Mack constructed his first light-steles and cubes. In Paris, in 1958 he exhibited a model of a vibrating light column in the desert at the Galerie Iris CIert, a work that, among others, he used in his Sahara Project. The Rotoren (aluminum foil combined with two turning corrugated glass sheets, mounted one behind the other) constituted 1959 the first motor-driven light sculptures in his work. A year later he showed, in the context the Hommage à Georges de la Tour in Berlin'sGaIerie Diogenes, his first phosphor pictures, and fire sculptures. From 1962 until 1963 he stayed in Morocco and Algeria, where he experimented with light in the desert for the first time. At the same time, together with Pieneand Uecker, he developed water, light and wind sculptures. After his, for the time being, the last picture on the canvas of 1963 Mack turned to chromatic color pictures, in which the spectrum of light would be varied. From 1964 until 1966 he spent some time in New York. After his return, the last ZERO group exhibition took place, after which they finally disbanded. In 1968 for the film TeIe-Mack he realized the Sahara Project in the Tunisian desert. On the occasion of the Expo in Osaka, he developed a mirror plantation, a water sculpture, and a fire forest. Due to the attention that he attracted there, he was appointed the teacher of the sculpture course at the Art Academy in Osaka. In the 70s and 80s, he applied himself to creating monumental outdoor sculptures and the design of public squares (e.g.: Jürgen-Ponto-Platz in Frankfurt a.M.) as well as stage sets for theatre and opera. In 1991 he developed, for the first time in years, large-format painted pictures.
Born 1928 in Laasphe, lived in Groton, Massachusetts, and Düsseldorf. Died 2015 in Berlin. From 1948 until 1950 Piene studied at the Blocherschule and at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Munich and subsequently moved to the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. In 1957 he took the state exam in philosophy at the University of Cologne and at the same time worked as an art teacher. From 1955 Piene created letter reliefs and perforated grid-light boxes; two years later he developed the first of his grid pictures (monochrome vibration structures, that offered resistance to light). At the same time, together with Heinz Mack, he organized the first evening exhibition in his studio in Gladbacher Straße in Düsseldorf and up until 1961 they edited ZERO magazine, issues 1 to 3. At the end of the 50s, Piene staged his archaic light ballet in Gallery Schmela in Düsseldorf and developed the first of his smoke drawings and his mechanized light sculptures. environments and fire pictures followed. In 1962 he established, along with Mack and Uecker the first Salon de lumière on the occasion of the NUL exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Over the course of the 60s, Piene experimented with multimedia performances and with light, smoke, fire, and air as well as helium sculptures. In 1964 he took up his first visiting professorship at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; a year later he moved to New York. At the same time, he developed light sculptures for the new Stadttheater Bonn, which led to his garnering of commissions to the present day that connects art and architecture. In 1968 the first large Sky Event Light Line Experiment took place, using over 300 meters of illuminated polyethylene tubing filled with helium, in which Piene merged the phenomena of light and weightlessness with the natural elements. A year later he created a manned helium sculpture releasing Susan Peters into the air. In 1974 Piene became the Director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he widened the scope of telecommunications, laser, video, hologram, sky art and environment art. From the early 80s, he combined the smoke and fire pictures with the grids of his ZERO periods and from 1998 onwards he developed light rooms for various museums. such as the Kunsthalle Bremen.en.
Born 1930 in Wendorf (Mecklenburg), lives in Düsseldorf. From 1949 until 1953 Uecker studied at the Fachhochschule für Angewandte Kunst in Wismar and at the Kunstakademie in BerlinWeißensee, where he was confronted with the doctrine of Socialist Realism. In 1955 he left to study at the Kunstakademie DüsseIdorf in the class of Otto Pankok; there he worked on woodcuts, informal pictures (finger painting and dirt pictures) and nail objects. In 1957 he got to know Yves Klein, Heinz Mack, and Otto Piene and realized his first Nagelbild Informelle Struktur. While in these early works the material character still stayed in the foreground, Uecker developed, in the following year, serial horizontal and vertical structures. He took part in the seventh evening exhibition in the studio in Gladbacher Straße in DüsseIdorf, organized by Mack and Piene. In 1960 the tactile objects and seIf-turning light structures developed as well as the arrow pictures, for which the artist shot arrows through canvas at the Festival d'art d'avantgarde in Paris. A year later Uecker created the first "Abgesunkene Strukturen", in which rows of nails under the canvas compressed the surface above, and also staged the first light plantation, accompanied by the first light film. In 1962, having joined the ZERO group in 1961, the artist covered the first pedestrian second-hand objects, as sewing machines, tables, and pianos, with nails. In the middle of the 60s, he completed his self-turning nail bags as well as well as his sand spirals and took up a studio in New York. In 1967 the multimedia-interaction bar, Creamcheese, opened in Düsseldorf, where film experiments, kinetic objects, happenings and text recitals were presented. Uecker was involved in both the layout of the bar as well as the programme. A year later, on the occasion of the presentation of a 2O-meter high nail piece for the Dortmund Kaufhof façade, he edited the first edition of the Uecker Magazine; nine further editions were to follow. At the beginning of the 70s, he worked on musical projects and the structure field, Hommage à Strzeminski while traveling extensively throughout Africa and Latin America. In 1976, together with Klaus Rinke, Günther Uecker was appointed Professor of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. In the 80s he clarified his connection with nature through the so-called nail forests as well as the ash pictures, which were motivated by the nuclear reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.