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Heinz Mack – Academy Gallery – Art Academy Düsseldorf

Heinz Mack. Zero painting

On the occasion of the publication of the catalog raisonné of Heinz Mack’s ZERO paintings, the “Akademie-Galerie – Die Neue Sammlung” presented an exhibition with eighteen outstanding works by the artist from this creative area (paintings from the years 1956-1968).

ZERO was created in 1957 as a result of Heinz Mack and Otto Piene studying at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and was made official in 1958 with the first issue of the ZERO magazine. The ZERO movement saw itself as a radical critique of the traditional concept of painting, especially the Informel of the 1950s. Mack and Piene (Günther Uecker, the third co-founder of ZERO, joined them a little later) thought that the abstract painters had already painted the whole world and they were left only with the sky. This led to the inclusion of air, fire, water and light as full visual materials, to the dematerialization of the art object and to new concepts of space, as outlined by Heinz Mack in 1958 with the presentation of his “Sahara Project”, realized ten years later. ZERO was thus at the forefront of transcending the panel painting, which united avant-garde art around 1960. At the same time, a positive concept of painting emerged, which Heinz Mack first formulated in 1958 in his manifesto “The New Dynamic Structure”. The dynamic structure replaced the traditional motif. Differentiated repetition took the place of composition. And the direct modulation of the light replaced the modulation of the bright colors, which Heinz Mack nevertheless reintroduced in the early years of ZERO, in which he proceeded from the pure color spectrum of the light.

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The painting from the years of the ZERO movement (1958 to 1968) is becoming clear today as an essential moment in the more recent history of painting. Andrea Knop and Bettina Weiand, the authors of the catalog raisonné of Heinz Mack’s ZERO paintings, were able to access more than 500 paintings from this phase of his work over several years and document them art historically. This lifted an important desideratum in modern German art history and filled a ‘missing link’ in the history of the development of contemporary art. The current worldwide interest in this art movement, which arose in conjunction with the Düsseldorf Art Academy, shows the special topicality of ZERO painting not least because of its digital structure, which anticipates the inner logic of the new visual worlds of our time.

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