Biography of Günther Uecker
Günther Uecker is one of the best known artists to hail from Germany—an artist who during the 1960s would go far to change the course of art post WWII. Alongside notable artists such as Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Günther Uecker was one of the principal members of the Group Zero. Unified in their desire to work outside the prevailing post war movements of Tachisme and Art Informel, this group aimed to return to “base zero” and bring to the art world new levels of perception and consciousness by associating concrete experiences to their work. Influenced by the theories of John Cage, Günther Uecker and the Group Zero propagated the idea that an artist’s role was merely to set a work in motion, and subsequently, reality’s role to complete it. This would pioneer viewer intervention and participation in the contemporary art scene at the time.
Born in 1930, in Wendorf, Germany, Günther Uecker would go on to study at the acclaimed arts schools in Berlin-Weißensee and Düsseldorf—tutored by Otto Pankok at the latter. It was while studying that the artist began to incorporate nails in his art, arranging them into tactile, sculptural paintings which would quickly become his trademark. When he would later get involved with the more performative practices of the Group Zero, Günther Uecker’s use of nails on canvas became a meditative ritual; the repetitive nature of hammering would transform his aesthetic theories into lived artistic practice.
Throughout the 1960s, nails, corks and cardboard tubes all figured in the artists oeuvre as well as kinetic and electrical elements such as rotating disks and lightboxes. Günther Uecker truly occupied himself with the medium of relief and light, aiming to create optical phenomena and realms of oscillation that would actively integrate the viewer, and enable him as an artist to influence the visual process by kinetic and manual interference.
After the Group Zero dissolved in 1966, Günther Uecker shifted to creating works influenced by the body, as well as Conceptual and Land art. Throughout the 1970s he was also noted for the execution of several opera stage designs, including Beethoven’s Fidelio (1805-06) and Wagner’s Parsifal (1877-82) and Lohengrin (1846-48).
Günther Uecker has exhibited in important institutions across the globe, both in group and solo shows. In the 1960s, alongside Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, Günther Uecker exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris, as well as the Documenta, Kassel, and the Venice Biennale. His work today can be found in major collections worldwide, namely the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, the MoMA, New York, the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. The artist presently lives in Düsseldorf, where he occasionally guest lectures at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (where he taught as a formal professor between 1976 and 1995), and continues to pursue his artistic practice largely through printmaking.