The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'Rauchzeichnung', by the German artist Otto Piene, consists of paper and soot. The work was made with the help of a metal plate in which there are holes in a pattern of concentric circles. Piene allowed the smoke of a candle or petroleum lamp to pass through the holes forming dots varying from deep black to light grey. Here and there were marks because the smoke penetrated under the plate. The pattern of slightly overlapping circles or fragments of circles produces a dynamic result in the image and the circles appear to be moving.
Initially Otto Piene made monochrome paintings with grids of points in light relief. The points arose because Piene pressed oil paints onto the canvas through a metal plate. The image that we see is largely determined by the light falling on it and the material serves only to reveal the effect of the light. Piene shared his interest in light and light reflection with Heinz Mack and Günther Uecker, and together they formed the Zero group. In addition to light, movement also plays an important role in their work. At first, movement was only suggested, as in 'Rauchzeichnung', but later objects were created in which there was actual movement.
Zero was founded in 1957 on the basis of the cooperation between Piene and Mack. They opposed the expressionist art forms such as Abstract Expressionism and Tachism, which dominated the western art world in the 1950s. In this movement, emotion and a personal signature play an important role, but the Zero artists rejected that. Their work is much more impersonal and distant than a painting in which the act of painting is clearly present. Light, space and energy were key concepts for the Zero artists. They represent a new attitude to reality. According to Piene, “Zero is the zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new start. Just like the countdown when a rocket is fired – Zero is the immeasurable zone where the old situation turns into a new one.”
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