A rare, large example of Jan Schoonhoven's iconic geometric grids, Quadraten is an uncompromising three-dimensional lattice which beautifully demonstrates the central philosophy of Schoonhoven's career, his clear commitment to egalitarian order. Its strict lines enhance the purity of its composition, where no particular color, material or individual element is allowed to dominate. In a prophetic prediction of the development of Minimalism in the United States, Schoonhoven was a pioneer of the idea that the viewer was necessary to complete the work. The effect of light falling on Quadraten's deep recesses creates shadows which fluctuate and move with the work and endows it with an infinite number of visual possibilities depending on where and when it is viewed.
Despite its rigid geometric composition the hand of the artist is still very much present. Often constructed on his kitchen table or in his small studio, his grids were built up out of layers of paper, glue and white paint assembled over a period of several days. This handmade quality allows the delicate details of its production to remain visible and adding a distinctly human element to the work.
Schoonhoven's work came to prominence with the formation of the Dutch-based Informal Group, later to become the Nul Group in 1957. Around the same time German artists Otto Piene, Heinz Mack and Günter Uecker founded the Group Zero in Düsseldorf. Advocating the integration of light and movement into a two-dimensional painted surface, they wanted to emphasize expression by means of monolithic plane and repetitive forms. The following year Schoonhoven was invited to join the Zero artists when they exhibited in Rotterdam, where they were also joined by the Italian artist Piero Manzoni.
Key to the Zero philosophy was their view that art should return to 'zero' and abandon the artistic traditions of the past and forge a new and distinctive path towards a modern form of artistic expression. Otto Piene, said in his iconic statement about the group, 'From the beginning we looked upon the term [Zero] not as an expression of nihilism - or as a dada-like gag, but as a word indicating a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning as the count-down when rockets take off - ZERO is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.' (quoted in 'Die Entstehung der Gruppe Zero', The Times Literary Supplement, 3rd September 1964).
In the true spirit of Zero, the purity and simplicity of Quadraten underlines the humanity that was easily overlooked during a period of rapid change in Europe. It's simplicity and grace highlights the beauty to be found in modern life and as such Quadraten is a superb example of the enduring relevance and influence of his work.