Jan Schoonhoven (1914-1994)
signed and titled 'Schoonhoven R60-27' (on the reverse)
oil, papier mâché and board laid down on panel
28¾ x 19¼ x 1¾ in. (73 x 48.9 x 4.4 cm.)
Executed in 1960.
Gallery 44, Toronto
Anon. sale; Christie's London, 24 June 1993, lot 26
Galerie Lambert Tegenbosch, Heusden aan de Mas
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

Jan Schoonhoven's powerful, white geometric works were created out of the destruction of World War II. The Dutch artist's response was to develop a body of work that featured a series of grids with a clear commitment to egalitarian order; the strict lines of the relief are enhanced by the purity of its composition, where no particular color, material or individual element is dominant.

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 repetetive 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.

It was also during this time that Schoonhoven had begun developing his characteristic relief works, produced using papier mâché. Initially these were colored and irregular but in 1960 he starting producing his pure white and symmetrically geometric reliefs, of which R60-27 is an early prime example.

Schoonhoven was a strong proponent of the Zero group's struggle to make the viewer participate in each piece of work. In a prophetic prediction of the development of Minimalism in the United States, Schoonhoven believed the viewer was necessary to complete the work. In his work the effect of light falling on the deep recesses of his grids creates shadows which fluctuate and move with the changing levels of daylight and the shifting position of the viewer.

Schoonhoven continued to play a central role in European Post War art for over a decade. He joined Yayoi Kusama's happenings in Delft, when she covered his body in polka dots, using his body as a canvas for her art. He exhibited throughout the Continent and in 1972 his work was featured in the Amsterdam Paris Düsseldorf exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

'I feel closer to American Minimalism than to the Nouveau Realisme of Yves Klein. For me, minimal art is the American variant of Zero art' (J. Schoonhoven, quoted in R. Damsch-Wiehager, Nul: die Wirklichkeit als Kunst fundieren, die niederlndische Gruppe Nul, 1960-1965, und heute, 1993, Stuttgart, p.117).

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