London Art Reviews

Magazine of art press and reviews from London

“Zero & More” exhibition by Heinz Mack, at the Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.

David Franchi – Monday, 23rd March 2015.

Heinz Mack shortly before his 80thbirthday Photo: ReginaldWeiss

Heinz Mack shortly before his 80th birthday, Ph. Reginald Weiss © Ben Brown Fine Art, London

The exhibition “Zero & More” celebrates the works of Heinz Mack, at the Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.

A vivacious exchange of ideas, “Zero & More” juxtaposes iconic works from the artist’s Zero period (1950-60s), and new paintings and sculpture produced over the last five years.

Heinz Mack is a very renowned German artist. He is best known for his contributions to op art, light art and kinetic art and as a founder of the Zero Movement. Born in Germany, in the small village of Lollar (8th March 1931), Mack studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf between 1950 and 1956.

He reminds that period as very difficult. After the war in fact, Germany was destroyed: nothing was kept intact, nor the buildings, nor the economy. Therefore, the impoverished Germany was out of the art network. Luckily, Mack was awarded with a scholarship and he could visit Paris. When he came back, he spoke to friends about Mirò – he could see it for the first time – but nobody knew the Spanish artist.

Heinz Mack was also influenced by the exhibitions of the American artists coming at the embassies after the war, as US government was sending their artworks around the world.

The ZERO movement (1957-58) was created by Mack and Otto Piene, a fellow university student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. The movement re-elaborate the gestural language of European abstract expressionism, by craving an immaculate art that has a salvific power from the ravages of the Second World War. It features a minimalist and monochromatic aesthetic and it admires the transformative power of light. Mack described the movement as ‘the adventure of seeking out and discovering the still-white spaces on the map of art.’ This honesty of spirit gained ZERO the admiration of artists such as Gerhard Richter, Robert Smithson and James Turrell, united in their desire to challenge the traditional dictums of art making.

Heinz Mack participated to ‘Documenta’ II (1959) and ‘Documenta’ III (1966). He also represented The Federal Republic of Germany at the XXXVth Venice Biennale in 1970. In the same year he was invited to Osaka (Japan) as a visiting professor.

In the 1980s, Mack works on architectural public commission, such as ‘Columne pro caelo’ (1985) in Koln or the project for the German Unification Square (1989) in Düsseldorf.

In 1990, after a break of 27 years, Mack came back to painting creating large canvases called ‘Chromatic Constellations’. In 1999, he published a book in which he complements poems by Goethe with drawings, and in 2003 he produced drawings for the texts of Al-Ghasali, a Persian philosopher of the twelfth century.

More recently in 2011, Mack received the Grand Federal Cross of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011. His works have been shown in nearly 300 solo exhibitions and numerous other group exhibitions. They are also found in 136 public collections. Numerous books and two films document his work. Mack lives and

The artist in his studio, 2003. Photo: Ute Mack © Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

The artist in his studio, 2003. Photo: Ute Mack © Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

works in Mönchengladbach and Ibiza.

After such a long and prestigious personal history, the Ben Brown Fine Arts, London exhibition was not expected to fail. The works on display, in fact, are outstanding for both concept and realization.

It needs to be highlighted that the central theme of Heinz Mack’s art is the light. Sculptures and pictures are the media of his versatile body of work. Interesting is the contrast between black and white old works, such as ‘Vibration’, 1957-58, and the new ones which are full of colours, for example Empire Couleur (Chromatic Constellation), 2014. Recent works, however, are also in black and white, like Untitled (Chromatic Constellation), 2014, but they are very different, from the older. In fact, it seems Mack has worked on the light by grabbing it away from the old works, while the recent ones are fully created with the opposite concept.

The exhibition “Zero & More” by Heinz Mack is at the Ben Brown Fine Art gallery, Mayfair, London, from 6th February until 10th April 2015.

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