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ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow

November 26, 2014
Sanja Lazic was born in 1990 in Belgrade, Serbia. Her interest in art comes from a very early age and although she didn’t have the talent to pursue it professionally, she enjoys every day working and writing about it. Her favorite urban artists are Interesni Kazki, Saner and Phlegm.

In the 1950’s Germany brought forth one of the biggest art movements in 20th century – Zero. The artists’ group (1957–66) was founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and was joined in 1961 by Günther Uecker. The three wanted to become a renowned international art movement. Zero was the name of a magazine founded in 1957 by Heinz Mack that officially disappeared in 1967. The word “zero” expressed, in the words of Otto Piene as “a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning.” The movement is often interpreted as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism, in a way that it explained art throughout the void of color, emotion and individual expression. In the last couple of years, the interest in Zero artists had an extraordinary resurgence, with works from the European artists in the movement suddenly taking over the auction rooms and selling for enormous prices. This October the United Stated dedicated a whole exhibition to the movement by organizing the first large-scale historical survey. Entitled ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, the show displays works by Zero artists. As well as ZERO, an international network of like-minded artists from Europe, Japan, and North and South America like Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Piero Manzoni, Almir Mavignier, Jan Schoonhoven, and Jesús Rafael Soto. All of them shared the group’s aspiration to transform and redefine art in the aftermath of World War II.  

Illustration from ZERO 3 (July 1961), design by Heinz Mack
Illustration from ZERO 3 (July 1961), design by Heinz Mack

More than 40 Artists and 180 Works

ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s exhibition features works by more than 40 artists from 10 countries, exploring the experimental practices developed by the extensive ZERO network of artists, whose work anticipated aspects of Land art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. Curated by Guggenheim’s Valerie Hillings, “The Zero show” displays more than 180 works by Mack, Piene, Uecker, and others in order to review the movement through paintings, drawings, sculptures, kinetic works, archival films, and light installations. Half of the works on view belong to the group’s most devoted members, while the rest are made by 37 fellow-travelers with whom Zero’s center communicated primarily through correspondence, manifestos, exhibitions, and the movement’s main organ: Zero magazine.

Search for the New

The group’s main focus being innovation and novelty above all, like earlier 20th century movements – Futurism and Vorticism, it’s pretty understandable why the traditional media like oil paint, canvas, charcoal were expelled and the ones in usage became nails, fire, light bulbs, aluminum, mirrors, and motorized parts. The exhibition explores the themes of the establishment of new definitions of painting (such as the monochrome, serial structures, and fire and smoke paintings); the introduction of movement and light as both formal and idea-based aspects of art; the use of space as subject and material; the interrogation of the relationship between nature, technology, and humankind; and the production of live actions or demonstrations.

ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow opened October 10th at the Guggenheim Gallery in New York and will be on view until January 7, 2015.

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Installation View - ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View – ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View - ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View – ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View - ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View – ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View - ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View – ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View - ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald
Installation View – ZERO Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s, photo by David Heald

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