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Otto Piene

light sculpture suspended from the ceiling in a darkened gallery

Otto Piene (1928-2014) was born in Laasphe, Westphalia, Germany and lived and worked in Düsseldorf, Cambridge and Groton, Massachusetts. Piene was one of the founding members of the ZERO group (1957-1966) along with Heinz Mack, and later Günther Uecker. From 1948 to 1953, he attended the Blocherer Art School and studied painting at the Academy of Art in Munich and the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Piene graduated with a philosophy degree from the University of Cologne in 1957. After serving as a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1964, Piene became the first Fellow of the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) from 1968 to 1971, during which he coined the term “Sky Art” for large outdoor sky/light projects, such as Olympic Rainbow for the 1972 Munich Olympics. In the same year, Piene became Professor of Environmental Art at MIT, and from 1974 to 1994, he was director of the CAVS. Solo exhibitions include retrospectives at the Kunstmuseum im Ehrenhof, Düsseldorf (1996); the Prague City Gallery (2002), and the Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (2008-2009). The artist had a show of Light Ballet and Fire Paintings at Sperone Westwater in 2010, followed by a retrospective of painting, sculpture and installation in 2016. Recent museum solo shows include the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2011), ZKM 1 Museum Für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe (2013), Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (graphic work) (2013), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2014), Langen Foundation, Neuss (2014), LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster (2015) and Fitchburg Art Museum (2019). In 2014, the Guggenheim Museum in New York opened a large-scale historical survey of the work of the ZERO group, showcasing a diverse selection of Piene’s work. In 2015, a touring exhibition of ZERO artworks was presented at the Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin and traveled to the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam. Another major exhibition of the ZERO group was held at the S.U. Sakıp Sabancı Museum (2015-2016). Piene’s work is in many important public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.

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Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Red Sky, 1967
pigment and soot on paper
18 7/8 x 26 7/8 inches (47,9 x 68,3 cm)
22 1/2 x 30 3/4 inches (57,2 x 78 cm) frame
SW 09230
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Kilauea, 1975
oil and fire on canvas
32 x 40 inches (81,2 x 101,6 cm)
33 1/8 x 41 1/8 inches (84,1 x 104,4 cm) frame
SW 13367

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
La force pure III, 1959
oil on canvas
49 1/4 x 49 1/4 x 2 7/8  inches (125 x 125 x 7,3 cm)
Collection of Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Rasterbild, 1957-58
oil on canvas
38 3/4 x 27 5/8 inches (98,4 x 70,2 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled, 1957-58
oil on canvas
12 x 27 x 7/8 inches (30,4 x 69 x 2,2 cm)
15 3/4 x 30 5/8 x 2 inches (40 x 78 x 5,1 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Zonen, 1957/1983/1987
oil on canvas
59 x 78 3/4 inches (150 x 200 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled (Raster-Rauchzeichnung), 1959
soot on paper
28 x 39 1/3 inches (71 x 100 cm)
31 3/4 x 42 3/4 inches (81 x 109 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Lichtströmung, 1959
oil on canvas
26 5/8 x 37 3/4 inches (67,6 x 95,8 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled, 1957/61
oil on canvas
59 x 78 3/4 inches (150 x 200 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Nachtsonne (The Moon Upon Which It Depends), 1964-1965
fire painting on canvas
59 x 78 3/4 inches (150 x 200 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled, 1960
pigment and soot on paper
22 x 15 inches (55,5 x 38 cm)
24 1/8 x 18 7/8 inches (61,3 x 48 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Manufactured Sun, 1966
pigment and soot on paper
20 1/2 x 22 1/4 inches (52 x 56,5 cm)
26 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches (67,3 x 72,3 cm) frame
SW 13364

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled, 1967
fire gouache on board
26 3/4 x 37 5/8 inches (67,9 x 95,5 cm)
SW 13357

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
3 Black Flowers, 1967
pigment and soot on board
26 7/8 x 37 5/8 inches (68,3 x 95,6 cm)
30 3/4 x 41 3/8 inches (78 x 105 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Feuerleiter, 1967
pigment and soot on paper
26 7/8 x 18 7/8 inches (68,3 x 47,9 cm)
30 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches (78 x 57,8 cm) frame
Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Fear Flower, 1967
pigment and soot on paper
26 3/4 x 18 3/4 inches (68 x 48 cm)
30 3/4 x 22 5/8 inches (78 x 57,5 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Aurora, 1974
gouache and soot on paper
40 x 32 inches (101,6 x 81,3 cm)
44 1/8 x 36 inches (112 x 91,4 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
The Heat, 1974
fire gouache on board
32 x 40 inches (81,2 x 101,6 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
On the Mountain, 1974
fire gouache and hay on board
44 1/8 x 28 inches (112 x 71 cm) image
47 3/4 x 31 13/16 x 2 inches (121,3 x 81 x 5,1 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Red Matters, 1975
oil and fire on canvas
48 x 48 inches (122 x 122 cm) image
53 1/16 x 53 1/16 x 3 1/2 (135 x 135 x 9 cm) frame
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Lichtballett, 1961
mixed media
67 5/8 x 59 3/4 x 28 inches (172 x 152 x 71 cm)
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Hängende Lichtkugel, 1972
mixed media
89 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches (227 x 70 cm)
Collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Black Light Ballet Drum, 1967
wood, metal, glass, motor, electric light
19 1/2 x 59 inches (49, 5 x 150 cm) diameter
SW 13226

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Lichtkugel, 1971-72
metal, motor, electric light, hanging chain
19 5/8 inches (50 cm) diameter
hanging chain: 27 1/2 x 23 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches  (70 x 60 x 60 cm)
SW 13225

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Electric Anaconda, 1965
brass globes, flat black paint, glow lamps
66 1/2 x 16 x 16 inches (169 x 40,6 x 40,6 cm)
SW 08356

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Vanish & Reappear, 1957/1989
oil and fire on board
28 3/4 x 40 1/8 inches (73 x 102 cm)
33 x 44 1/4 inches (84 x 112 cm) frame
SW 08364

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Goldregen [Laburnum], 2014
gold, glaze on clay
24 7/8 x 24 7/8 x 1 inches (63 x 63 x 3 cm)
SW 15201
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled (Rasterbild), 1957/1982
oil on board
28 3/4 x 40 inches (73 x 101,6 cm) 33 x 44 1/2 inches (84 x 113 cm) frame
SW 15374
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Untitled, 2006
glaze on clay
17 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 5/8 inches (45 x 45 x 1,5 cm)
SW 15379
Private Collection

Otto Piene

Otto Piene
Triptychon (Ohne Titel), 2014
platinum, glaze on clay
as installed: 18 1/8 x 49 x 2 inches (46 x 124,5 x 5 cm) overall
SW 15386
Private Collection

Artist press

The Boston Globe logo
Out of the darkness, dazzling visions in Otto Piene exhibit in Fitchburg
by Cate McQuaid
21 February 2019
WBUR logo
‘Light Ballets’ And ‘Light Robots’ Illuminate Visionary Artist Otto Piene’s Career And Groton Roots
by Andrea Shea
11 February 2019