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Basic Data

  • Born on: 13 March 1930
  • Nationality: German
  • Studied at: Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst Wismar, Kunstakademie Berlin-Weißensee, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
  • Teacher: Otto Pankok
  • Similar artists: Heinz Mack
  • Era: Post-war era, kinetic art
  • Stylistic direction: Modern art

Biography

Childhood and education

Günther Uecker, the son of a farmer, was born on 13 March 1930 in Wendorf/Mecklenburg. At first, he grew up on the peninsula Wustrow, a landscape that he feels connected to until today. From 1949 on, he completed a traineeship as painter and advertisement artist. Subsequently, in 1953, his wish to study led him to the Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst (University for Applied Art) in Wismar, and, then, to the art school in Weißensee. In Berlin he got in touch with Wassily Kandinsky's abstract art for the first time, which influenced him deeply. In order to escape from the straits of the GDR-doctrine of socialistic literalism, Uecker ensconced himself in West Berlin and got in touch with the local squatting scene. Shortly afterwards, in 1955, Uecker took up studies at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf under Otto Pankok, who influenced the young artist with his socialistic and socially committed attitude even apart from his studies. Uecker started with creating figurative as well as abstract woodcuts and finger paintings at the academy. In Dusseldorf, he eventually met Yves Klein in 1957, whose artworks he highly admired.

 

First nailed artworks and ZERO

In the second half of the 1950s, Uecker became artistically independent and developped his own special signature, which manifested through the utilisation of nails as the characteristic design element. One of the most famous artworks of this period is White Field from 1964 which is from the series Fields of Movement and made of painted nails and painted canvas. Uecker succeeded in positioning a field of nails in a way that its surface seemlingly moves in front of the viewers. The changeful playing with light and shadow contributes to the dynamics, whereas the prevalently white background evokes a dematerialised effect.

In 1961, Uecker became a member of the artist group ZERO that was founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene. The artists, who already got to know each other through the academy in Dusseldorf in 1957, united an interest in the utilisation of light, optical illusion, possibilities for combination and variation, and an affinity towards technics. Their aim was to establish a new start in art, "a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning." A free, liberated art of puristic aesthetics was to replace traditional ideals, which ZERO further manifested in the art of tachism and Art Informel. The term ZERO itself stands for silence, quietness, and a period of transition. The group split already in 1966 - shortly after the joint participation in Documenta 2. Its members' paths have moved too far away from one another both biographically and artistically. Nevertheless, their impact has an effect until today, which was shown by a great ZERO-retrospective at the Martin-Gropius-Bau not long ago in summer 2015.

 

Kinetic light art

In the 1960s, Uecker increasingly dealt with light, optical phenomena, and oscillating areas that actively encourage the viewer to participate through manual and motoric interferences. In this way, kinetic light art, so-called Lichtplantagen (Light Plantations) and Sandspiralen (Sand Spirales), takes up a key position in Uecker's oeuvre. Everyday objects covered in nails - primarily furniture, musical instruments, and household items - came up alongside his nail artworks from 1962 onwards. His artworks then increasingly protruded into the room and developed into spacious installations as can be seen at the Salon de Lumière in Amsterdam as well as the Lichtsalons (Lounge of Light) in Krefeld and Frankfurt. Artificial light and electricity are paired with natural material such as sand and water; the interaction of the elements became the linking theme of Uecker's room concepts.

 

International renown

In 1966, Uecker rented a studio in New York and increasingly celebrated international success. During this time, the artist travelled extensively around the whole world, particularly to Africa, Asia and South America. In 1970, he exhibited together with Thomas Lenk, Heinz Mack and Karl-Georg Pfahler at the German pavilion at the Biennale in Venice. In 1974, he was appointed professor at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf.

In the sequel, Uecker progressively dedicated himself to concepts for theatre and opera alongside objects and installations, for instance designs for the Bayreuth Festival (1979) or the Wilhelm Tell production at the Rütli meadow. In the 1980s, Uecker's artworks become more and more political, he started to take a stand on ecopolitical and historical issues. He handled the Chernobyl disaster in the cycle of the Aschebilder, other topics that he discussed artistically were the Iraq War and the Holocaust

More and more attention was paid to the world-acclaimed artist at home from the 1980s on and the pioneer's importance for contemporary art was appreciated. So, the artist was awarded the Kaiserring of the city of Gosslar; in 1985, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany followed. Public contracts, such as the Andachtsraum (Prayer Room) at the Reichstag building in Berlin that was designed in 1999 belong to Uecker's more recent artworks. In December 2008, Uecker was co-founder of the ZERO Foundation that devoted itself to the research, presentation and preservation of the movement. In 2008 he became a talking point when he exhibit as the first western artist in Iran. In 2015, Uecker was awarded the State Award of North Rhine-Westphalia, the highest honour that the state North Rhine-Westphalia can award. The explanation said: "Günther Uecker has always considered his art to be a contribution for an open and dynamic society".

Today, Uecker lives and works in Dusseldorf and St. Gallen. Additionally, he operates a studio in Berlin. Uecker has got one son, Jacob, who was born in 1986, with his wife Christine. His artworks stand in all important international and German collections, ranging from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the State Museum Schwerin, his North German home, where an especially big body of work can be viewed.

 

Collections

Germany

 

Greece

 

Liechtenstein

 

Austria

 

Switzerland

 

USA

 

Exhibitions

Past exhibitions

Solo exhibitions

  • 2015 Uecker - Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen
  • 2015 ZERO - Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
  • 2012 Haunch of Venison - New York
  • 2010 Günther Uecker. Art Walk - Kalfayan Galleries, Thessaloniki
  • 2008 Günther Uecker. Arbeiten auf Papier und Skulptur - Kunstmuseum Bayreuth
  • 2005 Günther Uecker. Zwanzig Kapitel. Retrospektive - Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Kunsthalle, Bremen
  • 2003 Graphein - Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg
  • 2002 Objekte aus vier Jahrzehnten - Stuttgarter Kunsthaus, Stuttgart
  • 2000 Originalgraphiken - Entwicklung eines Werkes - Goethe Institut, Hanoi
  • 1998 Fragmente - Mies van der Rohe Haus, Berlin
  • 1995 Günther Uecker. Brief an Peking - Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin
  • 1993 Eine Retrospektive - Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich
  • 1992 Uecker in Wien - Ludwig Museum, Vienna
  • 1991 Muze plodnost vzejit z popela - Galerie ULUV, Prague
  • 1990 A Pict Land Garden. New Works by Günther Uecker - Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh
  • 1989 Römersteine - Goethe-Institut, Chicago
  • 1989 Die achtziger Jahre - Mönchehaus-Museum Goslar
  • 1988 Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Lenz Schoenberg - Instituto Aleman de Madrid, Madrid
  • 1988 Uecker in Moskau - Zentrales Künstlerhaus am Krimwall, Moscow
  • 1987 Bühnenbilder zu Richard Wagner - Kunstverein, Bayreuth
  • 1987 Studio Carlo Grossetti, Milan
  • 1986 Günther Uecker. Aus dem graphischen Werk - Galerie Muda, Hamburg
  • 1986 Günther Uecker - Kunsthalle, Winterthur
  • 1985 Günther Uecker. Bibliophile Werke - Deutsches Kulturinstitut, Ankara
  • 1984 Kamakura Gallery, Tokyo
  • 1983 Bibliophile Werke - Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
  • 1982 Aquarelle - Nationalgalerie, Berlin
  • 1980 Bilder, Bücher, Objekte - Galerie der Buchhandlung Claus Lincke, Dusseldorf
  • 1978 Zum Schweigen der Schrift oder die Sprachlosigkeit - Galerie Reckermann, Cologne
  • 1976 Antwerp Gallery, Antwerp
  • 1975 Zeichnungen - Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf
  • 1975 Das Schweigen der Schrift - Erker-Galerie, St. Gallen
  • 1974 Filme - Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne
  • 1972 Uecker Kreis Kreise - Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf
  • 1971 Klang-Szene 2 - Nationalgalerie, Berlin
  • 1970 Galerie Denise René, Dusseldorf
  • 1969 Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
  • 1966 Howard Wise Gallery, New York
  • 1964 Benagelte Objekte -  Pianohaus Kohl, Gelsenkirchen
  • 1962 Galerie Ad Libitum, Amtwerp
  • 1960 Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf

 

Group exhibitions

  • 2015 Die Roten Khmer und die Folgen - Akademie der Künste, Berlin
  • 2014 ZERO - Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • 2013 ARTandPRESS - ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe
  • 2012 Ghosts in the Machine - New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
  • 2011 The Art of Deceleration - Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg
  • 2010 Islands never found - State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki
  • 2008 From Picasso to Warhol - Portikus Frankfurt
  • 2007 Revolution des Alltäglichen - Sprengel Museum, Hanover
  • 1993 Deutschsein? - Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
  • 1992 Mit Haut und Haar - Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
  • 1992 Aus der Stille der Zeit. Über die Grenzen von Raum - Gallery Zacheta, Warsaw
  • 1989 Zeitzechen - Museum der bildenden Kunst, Leipzig
  • 1989 Das Buch des Künstlers - Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover
  • 1988 Brennpunkt Düsseldorf - Kunstmuseum, Dusseldorf
  • 1988 199 Künstler für Joseph Beuys - Stadtmuseum, Ratingen
  • 1988 Les Années 50- Centre Pompidou, Paris
  • 1987 Der unverbrauchte Blick. Kunst unserer Zeit in Berliner Sicht - Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
  • 1985 German Art 1945-1985 - Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei
  • 1985 ZERO. Mack, Piene, Uecker - Kunstverein, Lingen
  • 1985 Tsukuba International Environmental Art Symposium, Korea
  • 1984 Cosmic Images in the Art  - The Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv
  • 1983 Kosmische Bilder in der Kunst - Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden
  • 1982 Attitudes. Concepts. Images - Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • 1982 Videokunst in Deutschland - Kunstverein, Cologne
  • 1979 Düsseldorfer Kunstszene aus fünf Generationen - Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
  • 1979 ZERO - Kunsthaus, Zurich
  • 1977 documenta 6, Kassel
  • 1974 Basically White - Institute of Contemporary Art, London
  • 1973 Kunst in Deutschland - Lehnbachhaus, Munchen
  • 1972 German Art of the Sixties - South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • 1971 Bienal de Sao Paulo 10., Sao Paulo
  • 1971 Zeitgenössische Deutsche Kunst - Nationalmuseum, Tokyo
  • 1970 Bienale di Venezia 35., Deutscher Pavillon, Venice (with Thomas Lenk, Heinz Mack, Georg Pfahler)
  • 1968 documenta 4, Kassel
  • 1968 The Machine as seen at the End of the Mechanical Age - Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 1967 Weiß auf Weiß - Kunsthalle, Bern
  • 1967 Fetisch-Formen - Haus am Waldsee, Berlin
  • 1966 ZERO IN BONN - Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Bonn
  • 1966 European Drawings - Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • 1965 ZERO. Avantgarde 1965 - Atelier Fontana, Milan
  • 1965 ZERO - Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington
  • 1965 Biennale de Paris 4., Paris
  • 1964 documenta 3, Kassel
  • 1964 Group ZERO. Mack, Piene, Uecker - Tate Modern, London
  • 1964 Nouvelles tendence - Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
  • 1963 ZERO. Der neue Idealismus - Galerie Diogenes, Berlin
  • 1962 ZERO-Demonstration auf der Rheinwiese, Dusseldorf
  • 1962 Heinz Mack, Otto Piene et Günther Uecker - Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
  • 1961 Bewogen-Beweging - Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • 1960 Nouveaux rélistes - Festival d’Art d’Avantgarde, Paris
  • 1958 ZERO 1. Das rote Bild - Abendausstellungen, Dusseldorf

 

Awards

  • 2006 Berliner Bär, Kulturpreis der B.Z. Berlin
  • 2001 Bundesverdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
  • 1983 Kaiserring der Stadt Goslar
  • 1971 Bienal de Sao Paulo Critic's Prize
  • 1964 Biennale de Jeune Paris

 

Films

  • Günther Uecker: Poesie der Destruktion, Michael Kluth, Germany 2005, ’50.
  • Treppenfilm, Günther Uecker/Hubert Neuerbrug/Laura Poensgen, 1995, ’11.
  • Kreis Kreise, Günther Uecker/Hannah Weitmeier, 1985, ’60.
  • Henry, die Hose, Günther Uecker/Manfred Borchardt/Peter Dibke, 1969, ’25.
  • Die Ecke, Günther Uecker/Manfred Borchardt/Peter Dibke, 1969, ’20.
  • Das Geschenk, Günther Uecker/Peter Dibke, 1968, ’5.
  • Fingerfilm, Günther Uecker/Lutz Mommartz, 1967, ’4.
  • Die Treppe (im Bahnhof Rolandseck), Günther Uecker/Manfred Borchardt, 1964, ’2.
  • Lichtstruktur, Günther Uecker, 1960, ’5.

 

Literature

  • Günther Uecker, exhibition catalogue, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana 2014.
  • ZERO – Aufbruch in eine neue geistige Zone, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Maulberger, Munich 2013.
  • Günther Uecker, exhibition catalogue, Mies van der Rohe-Haus, Berlin 2009.
  • Günther Uecker – Zwanzig Kapitel – Retrospektive, exhibition catalogue, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 2005.
  • Günther Uecker. Dialog, exhibition catalogue, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Berlin 2001.
  • Günther Uecker – Eine Retrospektive, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich 1993.
  • Günther Uecker. Bühnenbilder, Modelle, Figurinen, Niedersächsische Staatsoper, Hanover 1986 
  • Günther Uecker. Zeichnungen, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf, Cologne 1975.
  • Günther Uecker, exhibition catalogueDenise René, Paris 1968.
  • ZERO IN BONN, exhibition catalogue, Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Bonn 1966.
  • Mack Piene Uecker, exhibition catalogue, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover 1965.
  • Mack Piene Uecker, exhibition catalogue, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld, Krefeld 1963.