A Multigenerational Group Show Reinvigorates the ZERO Movement, Starring Carol Bove

  • Image courtesy of Galerie Koch.

    Image courtesy of Galerie Koch.

The artist Carol Bove was born in Switzerland in 1971 and grew up in Berkeley, California, several years after—and several time zones away from—the foundation and dissolution of the ZERO group. Started in Düsseldorf in 1958, the famed German art movement was disbanded in 1966.

So, in Hannover, Germany, how do you explain the title of Galerie Koch’s intriguing new show, “Carol Bove meets ZERO”? From a conceptual point of view, the connection is clear. Bove might be a generation or two removed from Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, the German artists who founded ZERO, yet the Brooklyn-based artist sees eye to eye with her predecessors.

For starters, the ZERO group promoted artistic discovery unconstrained by tradition. Bove, in turn, has spoken frequently about her distaste for commonly held beliefs about how and why artists should work. In a 2015 interview, she talked about “awakening from one of the spells of capitalism” and “the process of withdrawal from my culture’s ideology around the instrumentality of time.”

Continuing the parallel, the ZERO artists expressed enthusiasm for Minimalism and the use of everyday materials; Bove, meanwhile, sources many of her materials from New York junkyards and construction sites and from the beaches of the Bay Area, where she grew up. Unsurprisingly, various critics have described her sculptures as “minimalist,” particularly in relation to 1960s-era Minimalism, a period that fascinates the artist.

It stands to reason, then, that the new exhibition features Bove’s work alongside work from prominent members of the ZERO group, including Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana in addition to Piene and Mack, the movement’s founders. Rounding out the exhibition are several other artists connected to ZERO, including Yayoi Kusama, one of the few female artists associated with the movement. Two years ago, the Japanese artist and others were featured in “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s,” a seminal show at the Guggenheim that helped renew interest in the movement.

The original ZERO artists first came together with the intention of beginning a new chapter, a fresh start after World War II and the artistic dominance of Abstract Expressionism. Now, decades later, “Carol Bove meets Zero” channels the same spirit, this time with the edgy modern artist at the helm. In an essay accompanying the exhibit, Janneke de Vries writes of “The Magic of Utopia”—a fitting descriptor, since ZERO is a movement, a way of thinking, and “utopia” is Greek for “not a place.” In other words, ZERO is a collective out of time and place, bound only by shared ideals.


—Bridget Gleeson


Carol Bove meets ZERO” is on view at Galerie Koch, Hannover, Germany, Sept. 24–Oct. 20, 2016.

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