Günther Uecker

Günther Uecker

Günther Uecker was born in 1930 in Wendorf, Germany. He studied painting at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee from 1949 to 1953, and further pursued his artistic training in 1955 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Throughout the 1950s, Uecker cultivated a strong interest in repetitive practices and purification rituals, and became fascinated with the philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam. He developed rituals of his own, including the lengthy, repetitive, meditative hammering of nails, and proceeded to translate this into his artistic practice. His nail-relief works exceed the limits of the two-dimensional plane and create a new realm for vision to explore the calculated patterns of light and shadow.

Uecker examined this effect further in the 1960s by introducing kinetic elements into his works through the use of engines, shifting his methodology from using precise, geometric patterns to more organic and irregular arrangements. In 1961, he joined the Zero Group founded by artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, who advocated for a new art form—a degree zero—to erase the destructive, violent forces by which human experience had come to be conditioned during the war, and which were expressed in the then-prevalent Art Informel style. The Zero Group made a large impact in the European postwar milieu, influencing a number of artists with similar ideas. Central to the movement were explorations of light, technology, and an expansion beyond traditional two-dimensional confines of the canvas, all of which are implicated in Uecker’s work.

After the dissolution of the Zero Group in the mid-1960s, Uecker's work took a turn toward body, Conceptual, and Land art, and in the 1970s he designed stage sets for several operas. He taught at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1974 to 1995, and was promoted to professor in 1976. Uecker has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, such as the Staatspreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2015. His work has been exhibited at museums around the world, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Budapest Museum of Fine Art, Budapest; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice; and the Belvedere Museum, Vienna. He has also participated in documenta, Kassel in 1964, 1968, and 1977, and the Venice Biennale in 1970. The artist’s work is included in the collections of international institutions such as the Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

Recent exhibitions of Uecker’s work include a large-scale retrospective at K20 am Grabbeplatz, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, in 2015; and a solo exhibition, Tribute to Hafez, at the Imam Ali (AS) Religious Arts Museum, Tehran, in 2016. He was featured prominently in the 2014–15 exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Uecker’s eight-panel painting Weiβe Bilder: Weiβe Stelle (White Pictures: White Place) (1992) was included in the Punta Della Dogana, Venice’s exhibition Accrochage, in June 2016, and his seminal sculpture, Chair (II) (1963) is featured in the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s recent reinstallation of their permanent collection.

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Selected Works

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  • Sandmühle (Sand Mill)
    Conceived in 1969 - Executed 2014
    Sand, wood, cord, and electric motor
    Diameter: 275 9/16 inches (700 cm)

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  • Untitled
    1967
    Paint and nails on canvas on wood
    32 1/2 x 32 1/2 inches (82.5 x 82.5 cm)

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  • Untitled
    1962
    Acrylic and nails on canvas mounted on panel
    38 5/8 x 31 7/8 inches (98 x 81 cm)

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  • Poetischer Reihe Sylt
    1976
    Painted nails and canvas on wood
    17 3/8 x 17 3/8 x 4 inches (44 x 44 x 10 cm)

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Selected Press

Berlin Art Link | Exhibition // Socle du Monde: Denmark’s Oldest Contemporary Art Biennial

April 27, 2017

Considering that the Socle du Monde biennial art event in Herning, Denmark only began in 2002, it’s …

New York Times | The Look of ’70s SoHo — Captured in One Apartment

February 9, 2017

The apartment, with its fine examples by Günther Uecker, Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana and Agostino …

Apollo Magazine | Taking Risks - Gunther Uecker

February 1, 2017

On my way to Gunther Uecker’s studio in Dusseldorf, I manage to lose my way, and when I ask for …

Bonhams | Changing Tack

November 1, 2016

If Günther Uecker owns one material in contemporary art, it is the nail: nails are vital in much …

Randian | Günther Uecker: Verletzte Felder

October 26, 2016

Dominque Lévy is pleased to announce the exhibition of new work by German artist Günther Uecker, …

Artribune | Londra. Frieze e le mostre

October 5, 2016

leri vi abbiamo fornito una mappa degli appuntamenti fieristici da non perdere durante la London Art …

The Telegraph | Market News: Günther Uecker nails it

September 27, 2016

He may not be the only artist to have used the builder’s nail as a medium for painting and sculpture, …

The Alternative Vision | Is Beauty Always Created from Beauty? "Feld" by Gunther Uecker

September 27, 2016

Günther Uecker’s work is made out of nails, creamy paint and a canvas. The atmosphere is airy while …

Blouin Artinfo | Datebook: Gunther Uecker's 'Wounded Fields' at Dominique Levy, London

September 23, 2016

This show is Uecker’s first solo presentation in over fifty years. It spans two entire floors, and …

Aesthetica | Günther Uecker: Verletzte Felder

September 23, 2016

Dominique Lévy, London exhibits new work from German artist Günther Uecker at the gallery’s Old …

THE ART NEWSPAPER | Günther Uecker gets first solo show in London in more than 50 years

September 12, 2016

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Zero Group artist Günther Uecker is to have a solo …

Financial Times | The comeback kings and queens of art

May 20, 2016

It was the 1960s and 70s, and America was teeming with groundbreaking protest and game-changing political …

ArtReviewAsia | Art Basel 2015 slideshow

June 23, 2015

Highlights from LISTE, Art Basel Unlimited and more, in pictures...

T Magazine | The Larger-Than-Life Highlights of Art Basel

June 16, 2015

Opening a day before the main fair at Art Basel, the Unlimited sector is devoted to displaying gigantic, …

The Arts Desk | Sotto Voce, Dominique Lévy

February 14, 2015

Sotto Voce is a collection of white paintings, sculptures and reliefs made by European, British …

Schirn Mag | Günther Uecker

February 13, 2015

I am not a contem­po­rary of Günther Uecker--for when he painted the road in front of Galerie Schmela …

Apollo Magazine | Pure abstraction: ‘Sotto Voce’ and the appeal of the abstract white relief

February 10, 2015

‘Abstract white relief’ is not an easy term to get your head around. It can sound highly technical, …

TimeOut London | Sotto Voce

February 10, 2015

Everything’s all white in this group show of big names including Jean Arp, Ben Nicholson, Lucio …

Architectural Digest | Abstract White Reliefs are the Subject of a London Gallery Show

January 31, 2015

The abstract white relief, as envisioned by artists from diverse locations, generations, and affiliations, …

Aesthetica | Sotto Voce, Dominique Lévy Gallery, London

January 9, 2015

The second show at Dominique Lévy’s new London space will map the progression of the abstract white …

art actuel | Gunther Uecker

November 20, 2013

Recontre au musee d’Art moderne de Saint-Etienne. Nous nous saluons dans la salle qui est un peu …

Artnews | Günther Uecker

June 1, 2011

Güenther Uecker can express as much with a carpenter's nails as most painters can using pigment …

L'Agenda | Il Enfonce Le Clou

April 14, 2011

Pour la petite histoire, Günther Uecker fut le beau-frère d’Yves Klein. Pour la grande, il est …

Bloomberg | Mechanized Dancer, Dreamy Landscapes, Brancusi Versus Arp: N.Y. Uptown Art

April 14, 2011

“New York Dancer I” wears a cape of nails and spins to the rhythm of an electric motor. By stepping …

The New York Times | Art in Review: Gunther Uecker

April 14, 2011

Few artists have put the common nail to such varied expressive use use as Gunther Uecker.

Video

Günther Uecker at Dominique Levy London

March 22, 2017

Dominique Lévy presents the first solo presentation by German artist Günther Uecker in London in over fifty years. Spanning two floors, Verletzte Felder (Wounded Fields) features a group of new works—paintings and sculpture.

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