Heinz Mack, co-founder of the ZERO movement and artist behind the striking The Sky Over Nine Columns installation shown in Venice in 2014, will be given a major solo exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts in London this winter. ZERO & More will feature a vibrant dialogue between iconic works from the artist's ZERO period (1950-60s), and new paintings and sculpture produced over the last five years.
Formed in collaboration with Otto Piene, a fellow student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the ZERO movement departed from the gestural language of European abstract expressionism and sought to reclaim an artistic purity from the ravages of the Second World War. Characterised by a minimalist, monochromatic aesthetic and a reverence for 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 openness of spirit gained ZERO the admiration of artists including Gerhard Richter, Robert Smithson and James Turrell, united in their desire to challenge the traditional dictums of art making.
The exhibition celebrates the range and depth of Mack's works. Termed 'instruments of light' by the artist himself, each explores the myriad values of colour and motion the medium makes possible.
In his early work, Mack brings a vibrating force to black and white through a tension of dynamic and static elements. Through this rhythmic chiaroscuro, the artist creates a remarkable colouristic impression, as in Komposition I (1957), where a jagged passage of black is offset a wash of grey. An effect of subtle undulation animates fine vertical lines in cloth work Vibration (1957-58), a delicate contrast to the textured optical spectacle of Untitled (1959).
This skilled rendering of movement is developed further in Mack's sculptures and reliefs. Rocket-shaped work Stele (1960) is an imposing manipulation of polished stainless steel, while in Kleine Lichtstruktur (1966) dented aluminium forms silver reliefs of reflected light. These works invite a contemplative state the artist has named 'ideal visualisation', a spiritual appreciation of luminous objects. Such luminosity is central to Silber-Rotor (1964-1980), where serrated Plexiglas draws light into multiple crosscurrents.
Mack returned to painting in the early 1990s after moving away from the medium for more than two decades. The iridescent Mediterranean surroundings of the island of Ibiza inspired a vast exploration of the colour spectrum and saw the beginning of his 'Chromatic Constellations' works. Empire Couleur (Chromatic Constellation) (2014) demonstrates the artist's investigation of prismatic refraction, allowing shade and colour transitions to create the illusion of movement on canvas. Mack uses this same elemental modulation in his most recent black and white works, Untitled (Chromatic Constellation) (2014), creating a dynamic play of patchwork.