A London Show Reveals Lesser-Known Works by Group Zero Pioneers Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker

The reacted to and looked beyond the prevailing art of their era, particularly , and made work that was non-expressive,  experimental, and often in dialogue with other movements. Recent exhibitions of the group’s work—including a major survey at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York last winter—have been greeted with excitement at the rediscovery of these important artists and their international reach (Mack, Piene, and Uecker’s approach influenced groundbreaking artists from to ). The Mayor Gallery’s “Mack Piene Uecker: Works on Paper from 1962–2012” examines the lesser-known work of founding Zero members made in the time since the group officially disbanded.
A preoccupying concern for was light. In his drawings, Piene used gouache and fire to build abstract forms and textured surfaces. Two untitled pieces from 1962, show puckered figure-eight forms made by scalding thin, washy gouache with fire. In Theater (1972) and Chaugete Architecture (1976), he applied fire even more viscerally, charring the surface of the paper. Similar to fire paintings, these methods resulted in dynamic works that could be read as attacks on art-making conventions.
drawings are more curiously minimal, often void of any marks. In a series of prints called “Parallele Strukturen” (1965), Uecker employed embossing as a primary means of mark-making, pressing dots and dashes resembling Morse code into the paper . In one work from the series, Uecker paints a few of the raised marks with ink, heightening the compositional complexity of the image. In a 2009 interview, Uecker described his work’s relation to communication, saying, “This work is like a language and it has overcome the border of cultures—it is international.”
Finally, uses clean linear forms to create complex textures. Mack’s two untitled pastel drawings from 2012 resemble works by , but with rippled surfaces of rich, bright colors. A series of black-and-white from 2010 create optical tricks through  intersecting diagonal, arching, or swirling lines.
All three artists are remembered not only for 2D works, but also for their ephemeral projects: performances, videos, manifestos, and speeches. Their efforts to build intellectual, aesthetic, and cultural bridges are in many ways responsible for the international and pluralistic art world we see today.

—Stephen Dillon

Mack Piene Uecker: Works on Paper from 1962–2012” is on view at The Mayor Gallery, London, June 4 – July 24, 2015.