From Post-war German master Imi Knoebel — a contemporary of Sigmar Polke and Blinky Palermo — to American artist Jimmie Durham, each of these artists was born in the first half of the twentieth century and became a leading exponent in their respective field: Otto Piene co-founded the revolutionary Zero movement, Jesús Rafael Soto pioneered Kinetic and Op Art in Latin America, whilst Brice Marden created his own unique take on Minimalism. Another common factor is that each of these figures has experienced a resurgence of interest in recent years.
Otto Piene (1928-2014), Hey Max, 1975. Gouache and soot on card. 38 7/8 x 25 1/2in. (99 x 65cm.) Estimate: £20,000-30,000. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Online, 10-23 February
In commanding the force of fire, Otto Piene found a way to encompass the power of the universe within his art: a quest emblematic of the cosmic aspirations of the 1960s Zero movement, of which he was a founding member. For Piene, the word ‘zero’ meant ‘a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning’.
In Hey, Max, a vortex of delicate veils billows out from a scorched encrustation of pigment. ‘One glance at the sky, at the sun, at the sea is enough to show that the world outside man is bigger than that inside him,’ he wrote, ‘that it is so immense that man needs a medium to transform the power of the sun into an illumination that is suitable to him, into a stream whose waves are like the beating of his heart’
Iconic in his practice, Piene’s fire paintings are held in key international museum collections, and his work appeared in an extensive 2015 survey at the Guggenheim New York entitled ZERO: Countdown to tomorrow, 1950s-60s.
Imi Knoebel (b. 1940), Untitled (Red), 1957-1987. Acrylic on board. 24 x 20 3/8 x 2 5/8in. (61 x 52 x 7cm.) Estimate: £10,000-15,000. Right: verso. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Online, 10-23 February
Imi Knoebel constructs hybrids of painting and sculpture, shapes that are compelling in their irregularity and purity of hue. The seven-sided profile can be configured any number of ways, creating a dance of colour and edge, chaos and order.
Preoccupied with the interplay of colour and its material support, Knoebel’s geometric abstraction builds on the legacy of Mondrian and Malevich. His interests in light, colour and form are often traced to his study under Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he met — and shared a studio with — Blinky Palermo. This period, however, was predated by the Bauhaus influence of the Werkkunstschule (Art and Crafts School) in Darmstadt, where Knoebel learnt the colour theories of László Moholy-Nagy and Johannes Witten.
Imi Knoebel had his first exhibition in London at the White Cube Gallery in 2015.
Jimmie Durham (b. 1940), My Blood, 1991. Ink, crayon, oil, watercolour, felt-tip pen and paper collage on paper. 23 5/8 x 19 3/8in. (60.3 x 49.5cm.) Estimate: £3,000-4,000. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Online, 10-23 February
My Blood (1991) confronts the underlying theme in Jimmie Durham’s work: his search for authenticity as a Cherokee descendant, and the political and cultural forces that shape identity.
Autobiographical in genesis, the work testifies to Durham’s general refusal to be bound by limiting categories, while also addressing the legacy of ethnocide.
Durham’s work was selected for the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennale in 2014. His solo exhibitions in Europe have included venues such as the Serpentine Gallery (2015) and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009). He was recently awarded the prestigious Gosslar Kaiserring for 2016.
Jesús Rafael Soto
Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005), Untitled, 1962-94. Silkscreen on paper on card. 16 1/8 x 13 5/8 x 3 5/8in. (41 x 35 x 9.5cm.) This work is number 109 from an edition of 130. Estimate: £2,500-3,500. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Online, 10-23 February
Venezuelan-born Jesús Rafael Soto was a key figure of the Op and Kinetic art movements, and a major force in Latin American art. Along with Victor Vasarely, Jean Tinguely, Alexander Calder and Marcel Duchamp, he participated in the 1955 Le Mouvement exhibition at Galerie Denise René which helped establish kinetic art as a popular art form.
In this work, the suspended elements create optical vibrations and an illusion of motion. The intangibility of the vibrations contributes to a sense of the work dematerialising, allowing Soto to strike a mysterious balance: making the viewer aware of the work’s physical properties, while introducing an ethereal dimension.
Following the resurgent interest and revaluation of Latin-American Art, Jesus Rafael Soto has widely been accepted as one of its most prominent figures, particularly as one of the ringleaders in international Kinetic-Art. Galerie Perrotin presented a large work by Soto at Art Basel ‘Unlimited’ in 2015.
Brice Marden (b. 1938), Untitled, 1972. Ink on paper. 11 5/8 x 7 1/2in. (29.5 x 19.3cm.) Estimate: £12,000-18,000. This work is offered in the Post War and Contemporary Art Online, 10-23 February
Brice Marden developed his rectangular, monochrome aesthetic at Yale in the 1960s; moving to New York in 1963, his style matured under Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
His monochromes restored the validity of the neglected medium of paint, and Marden described his early works as highly emotional and subjective. Untitled is a typical exploration — the black square filled with inked scribble instils movement in an otherwise static form. Glimpses of white paper emerge from beneath, reminding the viewer of the work’s two-dimensional plane. Created the same year that Marden exhibited at Documenta 5 in Kassel, Untitled prefigures the artist’s departure from Minimalism toward gestural abstraction in the 1980s.
Featured in some of the most prominent collections worldwide, Marden was honoured with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2006 (read New York Times review here), which travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin
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