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

White Stream

Günther Uecker (b. 1930)
White Stream
signed, titled and dated 'White Stream Uecker 84' (on the reverse)
oil and nails on canvas laid on board
24 x 24 x 6 7/8in. (61 x 61 x 17.5cm.)
Executed in 1984
The Marshall Gallery, Scottsdale.
Private Collection, Scottsdale (acquired from the above).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
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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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Alexandra Werner

Lot Essay

‘In the beginning was the nail, which seemed to me to be the ideal object with which to model light and shadow - to make time visible. I incorporated it into my painting, and it forged a link between the works and the space around them. It protruded as a tactile feeler from the flat surface, much like a sundial. A language of light and shadow emerged from the cumulative diversity.’
–Günther Uecker

‘Kneeling on the still untouched surface, he hammered nails spontaneously and without a primary sketch, working outward from the centre at a rapid, rhythmic pace… Focusing his attention entirely on the nails, he was forced to rely on his instinct with respect to the continuity of the field as a whole... This tremendous physical effort also explains the physical effect evoked by these spatial pictures. To speak of action pictures in this context would be entirely appropriate.’
–Alexander Tolnay

Swathes of tightly clustered nails, meticulously arranged in a rhythmic pattern of undulating swirls, emerge from Günther Uecker’s bristling monochrome surface in White Stream. Executed in 1984, this intricate work skilfully elevates the humble nail into a vehicle for the poetics of space, light, time and motion. Hammered into a wooden board, the nails spiral outwards like a Fibonacci sunflower rendered in painted metal, as if in emulation of nature’s organic beauty. Both nail and wood alike are covered in a layer of pure white paint, evoking a contemplative calm which is compellingly juxtaposed with the pulsating energy of the compact and bustling composition. Produced in America at a time when the artist was staying with his sister Rotraut in Arizona, White Stream is part of an exemplary group of works that was subsequently exhibited at the Yares Gallery. Straddling the mediums of painting and sculpture, its geometric formation creates a sense of movement, suggestive of rippling water or the buzz of an electric charge. This dynamism, so crucial to Uecker’s style, becomes further activated by the lighting conditions, which inform and transform the appearance of the work through the shifting dance of light and shadow that plays across its façade. Envisaging light as a medium in its own right, Uecker employs its malleable intangibility in pioneering ways. As he himself explains, ‘My works acquire their reality through light … their intensity is changeable due to the light impinging on them which, from the viewer’s standpoint is variable’ (G. Uecker quoted in D. Honisch et al. (eds.), Günther Uecker: Twenty Chapters, Berlin 2006, p. 34).
Uecker first began experimenting with the use of nails in his work in 1957. By the early ‘60s he was hammering them into furniture, musical instruments and household objects: an artist’s answer to the ground-breaking experimentation of Minimalist musicians such as John Cage. A key member of the avant-garde ZERO group, Uecker sought to reinvent the forms and language of art to usher in a new era, a ‘zero-hour’, that would replace the shock and pessimism of the preceding post-war years. Believing all illusions in painting to be lies and all idealisms to be no more than dangerous seductions, he looked to the familiarity of everyday life and rejected the soul-searching painterly abstraction that had dominated the 1950s. He instead developed a practice that would address the world objectively; one that was firmly grounded in the present moment. Intended both as invitation and challenge, the structure of Uecker’s nail-embedded work obtrudes into the viewer’s domain, as if seeking to bring its audience closer to a sense of reality. In the artist’s own words, his self-defined ‘nail field’ works ‘are an articulation of transitory time, like sundials which describe, through the shadows, that we are in constant motion within a cosmic context’
(G. Uecker quoted in Galleries Now, https://www.galleriesnow.net/ shows/gunther-uecker-verletzte-felder/ [accessed 1st December 2017).

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