Sperone Westwater is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Otto Piene’s historical Light Ballet sculptures and Fire Paintings from 1960 to 1967. Piene created these works during the prime years of the ZERO movement, which he founded with artist Heinz Mack (and later Günther Uecker) in Düsseldorf in 1957. Reacting to the personally charged post-war expressionism in Germany, the ZERO group banished psychological expression in their work and often used nontraditional art materials. A leading figure in kinetic and technology-based art, Piene employs the use of light and the surrounding environment in his Light Ballet and Fire Paintings, and demonstrates the connection between art, nature, and science.
The idea of Light Ballet originated in 1959 after Piene directed lights through the stencils of his earlier “raster” (grid) paintings, forming moving projections in the room. Piene’s kinetic light ballets are on view, including earlier types with construction work lights. The sculpture Light Ballet on Wheels (1965) consists of a black aluminum drum with a revolving disk and two lamps, which projects light in varying forms onto the ceiling and walls. Electric Anaconda (1965) is a five-foot column of seven flat black painted brass globes with argon bulbs that light up in timed phases. The intent is to expand the viewer’s perception of the space and encourage participation in the play of light. Piene describes these performative sculptures: