Günther Uecker (b. 1930)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Günther Uecker (b. 1930)

Untitled

Details
Günther Uecker (b. 1930)
Untitled
signed, dedicated and dated Uecker 62 Freundlichst für Arman (on the reverse)
kaolin and painted nails on canvas laid down on board
23 x 23 x 3in. (60 x 60 x 10 cm.)
Executed in 1962
Provenance
Arman Collection, Nice (acquired directly from the artist in 1962).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1970s.
Exhibited
Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Mack, Piene, Uecker, 1963.
Special notice

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

'When I use nails my aim is to establish a structured pattern of relationships in order to set vibrations in motion that disturb and irritate their geometric order. What is important to me is variability, which is capable of revealing the beauty of movement to us'(G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch et al. (eds.), Günther Uecker: Twenty Chapters, Berlin 2006, p. 34).



Executed in 1962, Untitled is an early, iconic and deeply hypnotic work by Günther Uecker, previously owned by the artists friend and contemporary Arman (Armand Pierre Fernandez). The present owner acquired the work over thirty years ago, and it has remained in the same collection ever since. Uecker offered Untitled to Arman in 1962 as a token of friendship and inscribed it simply on the back of the work with 'Freundlichst für Arman' (best wishes for Arman). At the time, Arman was sharing a studio with pioneering conceptual artist Yves Klein who had just been married in January in an elaborate ceremony at Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs, Paris to Rotraut Uecker, Günther Ueckers sister. This interwoven history of personal friendships and relations helps to illuminate the fertile interplay of post-war artistic approaches and concepts. In Untitled, Uecker has created a remarkably tactile canvas, the surface surging and undulating with myriads of nails. Through his exposure to Yves Klein's monochromes Uecker began in 1957 to blanket his paintings with an even coat of kaolin and white paint, creating his own topographical articulation of the monochrome. For Uecker, this monolithic absence of colour opened up a wealth of mystical possibilities. In his talk, 'White', held in 1965, Uecker defined the white space of his work as a 'space of spiritual existence', linked to the concept of the 'void' so celebrated by Yves Klein and a new world of silence beyond all screams' (G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch, Uecker, New York 1983, p. 26).

The resulting virginal, luminous aesthetic served to heighten the effect of light as it passes through and over the relief, breaking into shadows that momentarily transform the work. As Uecker has described 'my works acquire their reality through light... their intensity is changeable due to the light impinging on them which, from the viewers standpoint is variable' (G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch, Uecker, New York 1983, p. 28). It is this optical effect that invites the viewers eye to roam across the surface of the canvas, seeking new relationships between volume and shadow. Uecker became signatory to the Zero Group in 1961 where he was introduced to the visual practices of fellow artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene. Together, their monochromatic works were each aimed at creating dynamic optical vibrations. Although the group was disbanded only a few years later in 1966, the experience had been a formative one for the artist: 'it was from the start an open domain of possibilities, and we speculated with the visionary form of purity, beauty, and stillness. These things moved us greatly. This was perhaps also a very silent and at the same time very loud protest against Expressionism, against an expression-oriented society' (G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch, Uecker, New York 1983, p. 14). At the time, West Germany was becoming dominated by a prevailing expressionism or Art Informel, and it was against this prevailing vernacular that Uecker sought to find a new artistic 'base'. He looked back to the time of the Russian revolution populated by artists such as Kazimir Malevich whose clean, Suprematist paintings, with their metaphors of nothingness, 'made it possible to feel more optimistic about one's own way' (G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch, ecker, New York 1983, p. 26). Going beyond the catharsis of Germany's recent national socialist legacy, Uecker was seeking the same aim as his Russian forebear: 'the creation of 'white states' such as society had not yet attained (Ibid.).

With their irregular arrangement and variable density across the canvas, the vertiginous nails in Untitled simulate movement, like wind passing through long, writhing blades of grass or the surface swell of the sea. Uecker was raised on the Baltic island of Wustrow, in a rural town. This upbringing left a profound impact upon the artist who once asserted: '[my childhood] has a very realistic significance, because in fact earlier, as a farm boy, I always had great fun in driving the harrow or the seed planter with the horses straight toward the horizon without the furrows ever going off into curves. As a child by the Baltic I always sat by the water, and there I saw sky and water, earth and fire - they used to burn off the fields for the sheep to get rid of the dry grass. So I was familiar too with things in large dimensions' (G. Uecker quoted in R. Wedewer,Atelier 3, Günther Uecker, Leverkusen 1980, p. 19). This image of the stubbled fields, rippled sea and the organic, stochastic order of nature, is deeply resonant with the entrancing optical form of the present work.

It is a lyrical work that is at once static; the nails fixed into the canvas with physical force and exertion, yet dynamic with their ambulatory pattern creating an effect that forever refuses to abate. As the artist once elaborated, 'when I use nails my aim is to establish a structured pattern of relationships in order to set vibrations in motion that disturb and irritate their geometric order. What is important to me is variability, which is capable of revealing the beauty of movement to us' (G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch et al. (eds.), Günther Uecker: Twenty Chapters, Berlin 2006, p. 34).

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