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Otto Piene (1928-2014)
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Otto Piene (1928-2014)

Big Black Seed

Details
Otto Piene (1928-2014)
Big Black Seed
titled ''Big Black Seed'' (lower left); signed and dated 'Piene 67’ (lower right)
oil, soot and gouache on cardboard
26 ½ x 37 ¾in. (67.5 x 96cm.)
Executed in 1967
Provenance
Gift from the artist to the present owner in 1972.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

Big Black Seed (Lot 57) and Orange Fire (Lot 58) stand as powerful examples of Otto Piene’s Rauchgemälde and Feuerbilder, showcasing his innovative use of fire and smoke in his paintings. Throughout his oeuvre, Piene demonstrates a decisive change in the
manner in which the canvas is handled, tested and pushed to its material limits beyond the application of paint. As one of the founding members of Zero, Piene’s oeuvre is synonymous with the group’s key premise: the rejection of expressionism and subjectivity and an enthusiasm for the renewal of art via new materials. Piene commented, ‘ZERO is an incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new’ (O. Piene, quoted in U. Schmitt, ‘The Zero Era’ in The Zero Era: The Lenz Schonberg Collection, Germany 2009, p. 7). With their abstract aesthetic and unorthodox mode of production, these works perfectly embody the reaction to the psychologically-charged expressionism of the post-War period. Executed in 1967, a year after the Zero group disbanded, Piene’s Big Black Seed represents a continuation of the energy and free-spirited experimentation that defined the movement’s original aims. For Piene, the darkness represents the paintings of the past: ‘I pierce it with light, I make it transparent, I take its terror from it, I turn it into a volume of power with the breath of my life like my own body, and I take smoke so it can fly’ (Otto Piene, “Paths to paradise”, in: ZERO 3, Düsseldorf 1958; Reprint ZERO 1-3, Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, Cologne 1973, p. 148). In Big Black Seed, the single scorched circle becomes a centrifugal black void that dissolves into the intense red background of the painting, encapsulating the Zero group’s emphasis on pure colour through the creation of monochromatic works.

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