Otto Piene

Germany 1928 - 2014

Installation, Environmental Art, Performance Art, Kinetic Art, Zero Movement

Otto Piene
Otto Piene
November 26, 2014
Nina Karaicic is a journalist with experience in TV and radio media. Born in 1989, she had studied at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences (Journalism). Interests: Photography, Art, Film, Folklore, Video Games

Otto Piene was a German painter, printmaker, environmental artist, and co-founder of the ZERO group. Born in 1928 in Laasphe, Westphalia, Piene attended the Hochschule für Bildenden Künste in Munich and the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf as an art student, and then studied philosophy at Cologne University. After graduating in 1957, he and Heinz Mack founded the ZERO group, which, in contrast to Abstract Expressionism, emphasized art void of color, emotion, and individual expression.

In the same year, he developed the Grid Picture, a type of stenciled painting made from half-tone screens with systematically placed points in single colors. These works were thematically focused on a play of light, using patterns and shadows to distort the viewer’s depth perception. Piene sought to create objective art by eliminating any painterly gestures from his work, and increasingly focused on the intersections of art, nature, and technology.

Out of his Grid Pictures, Piene developed The Light Ballets, a series of sculptural installations in which light was projected from moving globes and brass columns through grids. Simultaneously, the combination of these grids with sources of fire (candles, gas-burners) produced smoke-traces and fire paintings, in which the paint was burned.

Beginning in the 1960s, he produced the Black Sun paintings and the Fauna and Flora paintings, which made reference to themes of nature. This led to Piene’s involvement with Sky Art, a term he coined in 1969, in which landscapes and cities became the focal point of his work. In 1972, he produced the Olympic Rainbow for the Summer Olympics in Munich, made up of five differently colored, helium-filled tubes, each more than 1,500 feet long.

He went to the United States in 1964, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania before becoming the director for the Center of Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served for nearly two decades. In 1996, Piene was awarded a prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and, in 2003, received the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts.

He died in Berlin at the age of 86.

Today, his works can be found in numerous museum collections around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2013The Encyclopedic Palace, 55. Biennale di Venezia, Venice, ItalyGroup
2013ZERO | Paris-Düsseldorf, Passage de Retz, Paris, FranceGroup
2010Otto Piene – Le Rouge et le Noir - Keramiken, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren, GermanyGroup
2009–2010Es werde Licht, Kunstverein Langenfeld, GermanyGroup
2009Otto PieneGalerie Bode,Nuremberg, Germany Solo
2008–2009Verwandlung, Kunstmuseum Celle mit Sammlung Robert Simon K., GermanyGroup
2008Otto Piene, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, GermanyGroup
2001Lichtjahre 1957–2001, Kunstmuseum Celle mit Sammlung Robert Simon, Celle, GermanyGroup
1996Otto Piene – Retrospektive 1952–1996, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf im Ehrenhof, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
1985UntitledGerman pavilion at the Biennial in Sao Paulo, BrasilGroup
1977documenta 6, Kassel, GermanyGroup
1972Sky Installation Pax for the Olympic Summer Games Munich, GermanyGroup
1971UntitledGerman pavilion at the Biennial in Venice, ItalyGroup
1967UntitledGerman pavilion at the Biennial in Venice, ItalyGroup
1959documenta 2, Kassel, GermanyGroup