Heinz Mack is one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. In 1957 he founded the group ZERO with the artist Otto Piene in Düsseldorf. Together with other international artists, they wanted to revolutionise art after the Second World War. With “Mack at the ZKM”, the ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Karlsruhe is now dedicating a comprehensive solo exhibition to him with around 130 works from the period 1955 to 2023, including works that are being reconstructed and exhibited for the first time in a long time. Mirror objects in the glaring desert sun, shimmering colour prisms in the Arctic, light-reflecting steles, magically vibrating rotors, golden and silver shining cubes, virtual volumes generated by electrical impulses: from September, Heinz Mack, artist of light, makes the atriums of the ZKM glow in many different ways. »Mack im ZKM« (16.09.2023 – 07.04.2024) im ZKM | Karlsruhe.
Fig. above: Heinz Mack at the ZKM | Karlsruhe, 2023, © ZKM | Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Photo: Felix Grünschloß
New materials, new forms of artistic expression
As early as the 1950s, Heinz Mack was looking for harmony between man, nature and technology. In 1957 he founded the group ZERO with the artist Otto Piene in Düsseldorf. Together with other international artists, they wanted to revolutionise art after the Second World War. ZERO stood for a new beginning – a zero hour. Light, movement, structure and colour are the central themes for Mack.
Early on, Heinz Mack used natural elements such as light, fire, air, water or sand as a fully-fledged creative means of expression for his works of art. By working with kinetic principles and new industrial materials such as aluminium, acrylic glass or Fresnel lenses as well as chemical substances such as phosphorus and mercury, he revolutionised the concept of sculpture. His open works directly involve not only the space, but also the viewer, as they interact with light in a unique way and thus expand perception.
Light in all its facets: “Mack at the ZKM”
The exhibition presents works from all creative phases of the artist. Some works, which have only rarely been exhibited and some of which have even been lost, are now being reconstructed or restaged at the ZKM. Among them, for example, is the “LichtChoreographie” (Light Choreography), a composition presented for the first time in this form from various, partly motorised steles by Mack, which creates a multi-sensory, immersive experience that sets light and space in vibration and literally makes them dance. Space and time also seem to dissolve in the “Sahara Project”, which has been a fixed point in Mack’s work since 1959 and made him a pioneer of Land Art in Europe. Time and again, the artist travelled to the desert, which offered ideal conditions for working with light and space in their purest form. On a large sand surface that almost fills the atrium, the light phenomena that arise from the interplay of Mack’s light objects and the glistening desert sun can also be experienced in a museum context. The “Sahara Project” is also one of the first works in European art to be conceived in terms of media, as Mack’s interventions only lasted for the time of the photographs and were then made accessible to the public photographically and in the film “Tele-Mack”.
Mack in the 21st century
“Mack at the ZKM” takes a look at an artist who has always explored the many facets of light, almost like a scientist examining an object in series of experiments. His continuous quest for immateriality opens up the space for an expanded experience of art. From today’s perspective, his work anticipates the questions we face in the 21st century. Mack’s preoccupation with air, water, light and sand also reflects current issues surrounding today’s threatened natural resources. Thus, his large reflector walls and expansive lamellae plantations, which he conceived 65 years ago, formally anticipate current photovoltaic systems. Mack’s attitude towards nature and technology raises questions and offers approaches to solutions that gain relevance in the light of the challenges of man-made climate catastrophe in the present.
An accompanying catalogue is being planned for the exhibition (publication date 2024), with contributions by Alistair Hudson, Wolfgang Ulrich, Sophia Sotke and Dr. Matthias Meier, Daria Mille and Lilijana Funk, Hartmut Böhme, Katharina Kern and Clara Runge, among others.
Mack in der EnBW
Vom 30.11.2023 bis 21.04.2024 zeigt die EnBW im Foyer der Konzernzentrale in Karlsruhe belgleitend zur Schau im ZKM die Ausstellung »Jardin Artificiel« von Heinz Mack, die Collagen, Fotografien und Objekte aus dem »Sahara-Projekt« umfasst.
Biography Heinz Mack
Heinz Mack (*1931, Lollar, Hesse; lives and works in Mönchengladbach and on Ibiza) attended the State Art Academy in Düsseldorf from 1950 to 1953. In 1956 he obtained his state examination in philosophy at the University of Cologne. In 1957, together with Otto Piene, he founded the group ZERO, which marked the beginning of a new period – the zero point of the new beginning of an experience of art – and a break with the conventions of post-war art, which was strongly influenced by Informel and Tachism. In addition to participating in documenta II (1959) and documenta III (1964), he represented the Federal Republic of Germany at the XXXV Venice Biennale in 1970. In the same year he received a professorship for a teaching assignment in Osaka (Japan) and became a full member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, of which he was a member until 1992. Mack was awarded important prizes, including the Art Prize of the City of Krefeld (1958), the Premio Marzotto (1963) and the Prize of the Dortmund Cultural Foundation (2012). In 2011, the Federal Republic of Germany honoured the artist with the “Great Cross of Merit with Star”. In 2017, he was awarded the Moses Mendelssohn Medal. His works have been shown in nearly 360 solo and many group exhibitions and are represented in 170 public collections worldwide.
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