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Otto Piene, Untitled, 1973

Otto Piene was one of the artists who wanted to transform the traumas of the Second World War into optimism, renewal, and prosperity. This was also one of the basic ideas of the ZERO group he co-founded in 1957 together with Heinz Mack and later with Günther Uecker. ZERO was "the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new", or, as Piene said: "ZERO expresses the human yearning to create a new world in spite of apparent chaos and the seeming fruitlessness of the endeavor, to build with what Nature provides us and with human ingenuity, with universal energy and with technology."

Piene's experiences as an anti-aircraft gunner created a fascination for light that filled the night sky. Later, fire became the medium of "working light" for his so-called Rauchbinder (Smoke Images): by burning a layer of solvent on the canvas and penetrating pigment and soot through grids, Piene created images that grew within seconds "on a border line between destruction and survival". The result, largely uncontrollable, refers to elementary natural energies.

Object information

Oil and soot on canvas
68 x 96 cm
Sotheby's Cologne, 17 September 2021, lot 26;; Private collection; Christie's, South Kensington, 17 April 2013; Private collection, gifted by the artist.
Chaos & Order, Wijnegem, Kanaal, Henro, 27 January 2021 - 22 May 2022.

Signed, dated and dedicated "for Mira" on the reverse.

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