Like airplane trails criss-crossing the night sky, bands of white fly over the dark surface of Heinz Mack’s Dynamische Form, Schwarz. As if caught on a wandering wind, these horizontal bands begin to waver and disintegrate, falling away into an incomprehensible code of luminous dashes and lingering dots. By juxtaposing white, the radiant synthesis of all colour, against black, the absolute absence of light, Mack aims to give colour its freedom. The minute alterations of bright and dark created by Mack dragging paint across the surface of the work generate an impression of increasing and decreasing light values, creating a shimmer of volatile energy which transcends the limited dimensions of painting.
Created in 1959, this work is a fascinating early example of Mack’s investigation of the concept of vibration, anticipating Mack’s later use of reliefs and kinetic sculptures. Referring to both real and virtual movement, vibration was a dynamic principle which underpinned the artist’s practice, as he described: ‘Among all the possible conditions derived from the concept of movement, only one is aesthetic: resting restlessness — it is the expression of continuous movement, which we call “vibration”, and which our eyes experience aesthetically. Its harmony stirs our souls, as the life and breath of the work. […]To me, movement is the true form of a work’
(H. Mack, ‘Resting Restlessness’ (1958), reprinted in H. Beckman (ed.), Zero, Cambridge, Mass. 1973, p. 41). The concept of vibration also held paramount signifcance for the members of the avant-garde Zero group, of which Mack was a founding member. Their 1958 eighth Abendausstellung, one of a series of evening exhibitions in the artists’ studios, took vibration as its theme, as did the accompanying second volume of the Zero journal, in which Mack published his manifesto ‘Resting Restlessness’. For Mack, vibration evoked the energy of the universe, which would transform painting from its historic identity as static container for representation, and
into an electrifying feld of active force. Neither abstract nor figurative, Dynamische Form, Schwarz is a physical phenomenon, a purely real, dynamic site of action.