|Now Showing / Zero Rising
5 December 2008
The world of art history is a place where art manifestos go to die, and its also a place where important movements can become obscured by louder, more lauded voices. The Zero Group may be one of the more unjustly overlooked avant-garde forces of the last century, though that neglect should soon right itself. One need only step into the first room of Sperone Westwaters catacomb-like retrospective, Zero in New York, to bask in the timeless good graces of simple, revelatory art.
In 1957, Heinz Mack and Otto Piene founded the Zero Group in Düsseldorf. Many of the artists who joined the group Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni being two of the more famous members were accomplices of better-known movements (in Kleins case, Nouveau Réalisme); this show allows viewers to look back on their art without the baggage of their later associations. With works from more than 20 artists, the curator David Leiber, director of Sperone Westwater, and Mattijs Visser, founding director of the Zero Foundation, had an enviable embarrassment of riches. Many of the pieces here reflect the "esprit du temps" of postwar Europe, and a feeling of quiet remorse is eloquently articulated in Günther Ueckers Wiesse Mühle (1964), a mechanized sculpture consisting of two white, nail-covered wheels (literally, a white mill) that rotate forever in the same small circle.
Other works are poems of the quotidian, such as Lucio Fontanas Concetto spaziale (1958), a large white sheet of paper with a series of rips. Christian Megerts Mirror Piece With Three Cuts (1963) feels like a Bauhaus reinterpretation of Fontanas paper work, with three elegant slices disturbing a perfect mirror. Many of the paintings, including Jef Verheyens oil-on-canvas Monochrome Bleu (1962), underscore the groups interest in the kineticism of light and purification of color. One room contains a series of monochrome and fire paintings by Klein, the master of transcendental optical form. Inside, a small board saturated with the artists International Klein Blue acts as the exhibitions wisest child, communicating an idea of transcendence with one mesmerizing pigment.
- Aimee Walleston