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Otto Piene (1928-2014)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Otto Piene (1928-2014)

Due onde nell’oscurità (Two waves in the dark)

Otto Piene (1928-2014)
Due onde nell’oscurità (Two waves in the dark)
signed and dated 'Piene 63' (on the stretcher)
oil and soot on canvas
39 3/8 x 39 3/8in. (100 x 100cm.)
Executed in 1963
Galleria Cadario, Milan.
Anon. sale, Ketterer Kunst Munich, 11 June 1996, lot 169.
Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Milan, Galleria Cadario, Otto Piene, 1963.
San Marino, IV Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, 'Oltre L'Informale', ente manifestazioni Milanesi, il premio dei premi, 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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Alexandra Werner
Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

Painted in 1963, Otto Piene’s Due onde nell’oscurità presents two rows of four pulsating dark circles upon a white canvas. Stemming from the series of Black Sun paintings which Piene created in 1962, the artist appears to have held the canvas above a burning candle eight times, creating a rhythm of spaces where oil paint has been darkened by the rising smoke. This piece demonstrates a momentous and decisive change to the manner in which the canvas is handled, tested and pushed to its material limits beyond the application of paint. Alongside Heinz Mack, Piene was a founding member of the Zero Group, which began in 1957 with the intention of departing from traditional painting techniques to enter a new artistic era, full of endless possibility. Later expanding to include Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni and Günther Uecker, the group strove towards a new creative vision, achieved by innovative and at the time ground-breaking methods of creating work. Piene himself commented that ‘ZERO is in incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new’– here he has turned a natural, ageless material - smoke – into an undeniably new art form (O. Piene, quoted in U. Schmitt, ‘The Zero Era’ in The Zero Era: The Lenz Schonberg Collection, Germany 2009, p. 7). Another example from the Black Sun series, Venus of Willendorf, 1963 which similarly shows the spectacular effects of oil and smoke upon canvas, is held in the permanent collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Engaging with light, movement and space throughout his oeuvre, here the artist plays with the potential of fire and an exchange of energy. Through his radical explorations, capturing the consequences of natural energy in a visual and ever-lasting manner, Piene has used fire to create this new texture of dark ash in contrast to the purity of the canvas. The surface seems to vibrate, radiating outwards from its surface in a similar manner to Manzoni’s Achrome series, achieving a sublime sense of simplicity and coherence without external reference. Piene wrote that art is ‘the harmony of life’ and the expression of the ‘consonance of man’s energies’, which is demonstrated in the exquisite compositional balances of the present work (O. Piene quoted in U. Schmitt, ‘The Zero Era’ in The Zero Era: The Lenz Schonberg Collection, Germany 2009, p. 7).

Each circle could be referring to the very situation that inspired the mission statement of the Zero Group – the name refers to the moment of a rocket’s lift-off and their intention to ‘shoot the viewer into space’. By applying heat beneath the canvas, Piene references this explosive force gives way to new dimensions. In contrast to the moon shining brightly on a dark night, Due onde nell’oscurità positions the dark globes upon a pure white canvas to create a space that is full of an enduring sense of mystery, drawing the viewer in towards the negative space of the burnt circles.

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