HEINZ MACK (B. 1931)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
HEINZ MACK (B. 1931)

Three Wings of Light

HEINZ MACK (B. 1931)
Three Wings of Light
signed and dated 'Mack 72' (lower right)
aluminium on wood
78 ¾ x 47 ¼in. (200 x 120cm.)
Executed in 1972
Galerie Denise René Hans Mayer, Dusseldorf.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1973.
D. Honisch, Mack Sculptures: 1953-1986, Dusseldorf 1987, p. 513, no. 955.
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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for almost half a century, Three Wings of Light (1972) is a spellbinding, ethereal relief by Heinz Mack. Three diaphanous, fan-like forms in sparkling silver mesh, fixed to an aluminium panel two metres in height, seem to flutter and drift as light shimmers over their surface. They form an angelic mirage, with light and motion refined, captured and intensified in such a way as to almost dematerialise the artwork. Mack was a co-founder of the ZERO group, which he launched with Otto Piene out of their shared Düsseldorf studio in 1957. After the trauma of World War II, and in reaction to what they saw as the indulgent subjectivity of Art Informel, the ZERO artists sought to create art from a blank slate: what Piene called ‘a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning’ (O. Piene, ‘The Development of the Group “Zero,”’ The Times Literary Supplement, 3 September 1964, pp. 812-13). In works like Three Wings of Light, Mack looked to the properties of radiance in the hope that the human spirit might be born anew.

The ZERO artists were diverse in their approaches, but united in an elemental, stripped-back creative ethos. They saw their work as a starting point, a regathering of primary forces into a condition of immaculate, open-ended potential. Like the Minimalists who emerged in 1960s America, they rejected depiction in favour of direct experiences of light and space. Piene used stencils to project ballets of light in darkened rooms, and set powdered pigments alight on paper; Günther Uecker, who formally joined the group in 1961, hammered hundreds of nails into billowing, meditative white surfaces that recalled windblown fields and seas. Mack’s defining medium was metal, which he used to explore light and movement—sometimes kinetic, with the addition of motors, and sometimes purely optical—to dazzling effect.

In his paintings of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mack had used alternating, seismographic black and white lines in an attempt to convey the dynamism of light on canvas. In later reliefs like the present work, he found he could experience light’s wavelengths, oscillations and vibrations with newfound immediacy: the medium itself seemed to disappear, with the silvery wing-like forms dancing, disembodied, like spectres in space. ‘I no longer saw the metal relief, but rather a vibrating and pulsating structure made of light’, he recalled. ‘It seemed to me that this structure hovered over the relief of the metal, as though detached from it, like a reflection of light on the wall begins to vibrate in intense sun’ (H. Mack, quoted in Y. Schwarzer, Das Paradies auf Erden schon zu Lebzeiten Betreten: Ein Gespräch mit dem Maler und Bildhauer Heinz Mack, Witten 2005, p. 15).

Underlying Mack’s work, in line with ZERO’s regenerative outlook, was a desire for harmony between man and nature. His rippling wing motifs—formed of pliant, finely honeycombed metal—echo the textural effects of wind and rain on water, sand or snow. The artist worked directly with such natural phenomena in his land art of the 1960s and 1970s, constructing glittering ‘gardens’ of monumental stelae, mirrored sails and ephemeral sand-prints in the Sahara, and fire-rafts, ice crystals and Plexiglas pyramids in the Arctic. Mack explored these vast, unspoiled wildernesses in a spirit of both scientific and mystical enquiry, which is paralleled in his wing-reliefs: some have titles referring to the Archangels Gabriel and Michael, while others are named for perceptual illusions like the Fata Morgana—a trick of refraction and heat which wildly distorts faraway objects. Three Wings of Light, too, is a heavenly apparition born of optical knowledge. In its seraphic surface, Mack imagines new possibility from the realities of light and life on earth.

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