Otto Piene (1928-2014)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Otto Piene (1928-2014)

Bronze and Gold IV

Otto Piene (1928-2014)
Bronze and Gold IV
signed, titled and dated '"Bronze and Gold" IV O Piene 58-59' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
oil on canvas
31 ½ x 39 ½in. (80 x 100.5cm.)
Executed in 1958-1959
Galerie Alfred Schmela, Dusseldorf.
Private Collection, Europe.
Thence by descent to the present owners.
Dusseldorf, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf im Ehrenhof, Otto Piene: Retrospektive 1952-1996, 1996, no. 15, p. 193 (illustrated in colour, p. 57).
Prague, Prague City Gallery, Otto Piene - The Zero Experience, 2002.
Siegen, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Otto Piene. Frühwerk, 2003.
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, ZERO: The international art movement of the 50s and 60s, 2015, pp. 424 and 528 (illustrated in colour).
Munster, LWL - Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Otto Piene Licht, 2015, p. 232, no. 6 (illustrated in colour, p. 49).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

What is painting? A painting is a field of forces, the arena where its author’s impulses all come together, there to be transformed, re-formed into a movement of color. Energies which the painter has received out of the fullness of the universe are now directed into channels open to the spirit of the onlooker’
–Otto Piene

Bronze and Gold IV is a shimmering, resplendent early example of Otto Piene’s rastered grid paintings, produced by the founder of the Zero group around the time of its inception. Like a dense sprawl of braille, coded and secretive in its systemic alignment, a metropolis of bulbous corrugations is constructed across a widescreen canvas. The variable concentration of rasters, with differentiations in size and thickness, produces fascinating and dramatic contrasts in light and darkness. The metallic gleam of the bronze paint is juxtaposed by the intense complexity of the raster’s patterning, a gilded opulence shattered by intervening protuberances, the claustrophobic melee alleviated only by the softer and more spacious zones at the edges. The overall effect is one of irresistible tactility, a rupturing of painterly surface that entices the senses. With these globules of thick oil paint, Piene introduces an extensive and intriguing lineage of unconventional and unexpected surfaces in painting; a conversation between Zero artists that would lead Lucio Fontana to pepper his Concetto spaziale with gemstones, and Piero Manzoni to adopt materials as unusual as china-clay, cotton wool buds and even bread rolls for his Achrome pieces. Departing from the subjective responses inherent in the works of other post-war abstractionists, particularly those of the abstract expressionists and those attributed to the art informel movement, Piene and his companions delved deep into the presentation of the painting as an autonomous and palpable object. Held for most of its life in the same private family collection, the present work was included in the artist’s solo exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf (1996), the Prague City Gallery (2002), the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen (2003), and most recently the acclaimed group exhibition ZERO at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.

With this concreteness, Piene’s Rasterbilder – as demonstrated masterfully by Bronze and Gold IV – are immersive works rooted in physicality; like moulded sculptures, they dispense with the prevailing preference for flatness in painting. Building up thick, impastoed layers of paint using a stencilled, half-tone screen over a canvas, Piene’s control of the method allows for enthralling interrelationships between luminosity and shadow; a crucial dichotomy of the Zero vocabulary, which sought to remodel the entire framework for modernist painting. With the Zero ‘attitude’ (Piene insisted it was never a movement), Piene and his fellow artists attempted to reinterpret visual language by means of reduction and dematerialisation. The atrocities of the Second World War pulsated through the memories of Piene, Heinz Mack, and the other Düsseldorf-centred artists. The past had to be eclipsed, and visual culture reset. Negation was the chosen vehicle through which to mobilise these aspirations, the zero before the liftoff. Piene, like other Zero artists, turned to the transformative potential of colour as a vehicle for light, movement and vibratory energy. ‘A painting is a field of forces,’ Piene exclaimed in 1959, ‘the arena where its author’s impulses all come together, there to be transformed, re-formed into a movement of color. Energies which the painter has received out of the fullness of the universe are now directed into channels open to the spirit of the onlooker’ (O. Piene, ‘What is a Painting?’, from the catalogue ‘Vision in Motion – Motion in Vision’, Antwerp, 1959, reproduced in Zero, Cambridge, Mass, 1973, p. 41). Bronze and Gold IV is a visual signifier for this transcendental mantra. The gleaming intensity of the colour – what Piene has referred to as a ‘purity of light’ – radiates with a dazzling life of its own, an awesome power that invigorates the aesthetic sensibilities of the beholder.

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