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Otto Piene (b. 1928)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
Otto Piene (b. 1928)

Rasterbild

Details
Otto Piene (b. 1928)
Rasterbild
signed and titled 'Piene "Rasterbild"' (on the reverse); titled and dated '"Rasterbild" 57' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas
59 x 78¾in. (150 x 200.2cm.)
Executed in 1957
Provenance
Sperone Westwater, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010.
Exhibited
New York, Sperone Westwater, Otto Piene: Light Ballet and Fire Paintings, 1957-1967, 2010.
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.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

'The light of colour flows between the work and the spectator and fills the space between them (O. Piene quoted in S. Peterson (eds.), Space-Age Aesthetics, Philadelphia, 2009, p. 205).


'Vibration [is a] Living growing nuance, that which prohibits contrast, shames all tragedy and disbands all drama. It is the vehicle of frequency, the blood of colour, the pulse of light, pure emotion, the purity of a picture, pure energy' (O. Piene quoted in Zero Knstler einer europischen Bewegung, Sammlung Lenz Schnberg 1956-2000, exh. cat., Salzburg 2006, p. 122).



A hypnotic paintings extending two meters in length, Rasterbild is an intense field of pulsating monochrome striations. Created in 1957, this large and ambitious work is one of the first examples of Otto Piene's Rasterbilder paintings, created the same year as the inauguration of the groundbreaking and highly influential 'Group Zero', which Piene co-founded alongside Heinz Mack, which would grow to include Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, and Lucio Fontana and Günther Uecker. Taking its name and meaning from the moment of a rocket's lift-off and aimed to 'shoot the viewer into space' Group Zero's ambition was to make a radical departure from traditional painting technique, ultimately awakening a new era of possibility. The immediacy and boldness of Rasterbild is the result of Piene's drive to develop new post-War artistic tendencies. Abandoning conventional methods of creation, Piene developed new spatial possibilities through the medium of light and vibration, fashioning an innovative system of relief paintings, employing immense perforated screens to produce a dazzlingly tactile surface of repeated, raised dots.

Expanding across the vast surface of Rasterbild, waves of dappled white paint create an undulating pattern over the achromatic sea; the rhythmic waves of paint imparting a cadenced pattern of light and shade. Punctuating the inky black background, the white filigree is repeatedly over laid, the multiple layers creating delicate areas of opaque white monochrome, whilst the pointillist dots create a gleaming tactile surface. Enveloping the viewer in a shimmering web, the circular grid paradoxically oscillates between both the meditative calm of a cresting wave and the dizzying restlessness of a mechanical turbine.

Oscillating between art and technology, the title Rasterbild is derived from the German raster for 'grid', but also recalls the regulated pattern of parallel scanning lines produced on cathode-ray tube televisions. Rasterbild emits a vibratory power, resembling the waves of radar, a novel mid-twentieth century phenomenon which represented a new kind of imaging technology, one whose inner workings were no longer visible to the naked eye. Key to Piene's concept with these works was his notion of vibration and of the picture as an energy-generating surface. 'Vibration', the artist poetically suggests is a 'living growing nuance, that which prohibits contrast, shames all tragedy and disbands all drama. It is the vehicle of frequency, the blood of colour, the pulse of light, pure emotion, the purity of a picture, pure energy' (O. Piene quoted in Zero Künstler einer europäischen Bewegung, Sammlung Lenz Schönberg 1956-2000, exh. cat., Salzburg 2006, p. 122).

The poetic resonance of Piene's singular and uncompromising vision can be seen in the shimmering, rhythmic formations created in Rasterbild. The pulsating waves appear coded, and extend beyond the purely formalist, the purity and light-intensity of the bright white paint pulses with energy, heightening this wave-like sense of the vibratory radiance, deliberately evocative of a spatialist concept of light. Extending beyond the picture plane and out into the world through the raised surface of repeated dots, the negative space of the black background is energised by the radiating waves of white, causing one's perception of figure and ground to fluctuate.

The extension of the vibrating patterns of Rasterbild informs all of Piene's future oeuvre, most notably his celebrated Light Ballet from 1959, where the artist projected torch light through the raster stencils, forming moving projections in the room, stimulating and extending the viewer's perception of space. Similarly, in an attempt to capture elemental forces, the combination of these grids would also become the sources of the artist's smoke paintings when the artist started to apply soot to the canvas through similar stencil sieves.

Piene's engagements with the themes of light, movement, and space are distinguished by their experimental and multi-media character. Extending Yves Klein's concept of aesthetics of spatial exteriority where repeated structures and pure colour could create a sense of energy, Piene states, 'the light of colour flows between the work and the spectator and fills the space between them.' (O. Piene quoted in S. Peterson (eds.), Space-Age Aesthetics, Philadelphia, 2009, p. 205). The deliberate use of brilliant white creates a current 'between the work and the spectator and fill the space between them. This space cannot be quantified because the spatial properties of the work are irrational - the work 'as space' is irrational' (O. Piene, quoted in 'Paths to Paradise' (1961), in O. Piene and H. Mack (eds.), zero, Cambridge, 1973, p. 64).

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