Forged in the late 1950s by the German artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, Zero fostered artistic discovery by promoting a new environment unconstrained by past traditions. The ‘zero’ in the name exists to highlight the group's affinities with Minimalism and Italian Arte Povera.
Many of the works that feature in the presentation have never been shown in the UK before, and include Adolf Luther’s epic installation, Focusing Room (1968), on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in Goslar, Germany. Comprised of twenty concave mirrors arranged on sets of five on a wooden table and spot-lit from above, this interactive installation renders light visible as its own autonomous, matter-less medium.
The artwork was originally created for an exhibition at Utrecht University, and at the time included a medium that is, perhaps, inconceivable today: cigarette smoke. The concept was that viewers who smoked would cause some of the otherwise invisible light beams surrounding the installation to be seen. Today, this effect is instead achieved with a fog machine.
The exhibition’s curator, Bettina Ruhrberg, says of the show: ‘The art of the 1960’s and 70’s was revolutionary art for a revolutionary age. A whole generation of artists both in Eastern and Western Europe, and in America, were fascinated by the phenomena of light and the perception. Enthusiastic for technology and geared to science, the artists saw themselves as experimental researchers in the field of optics. Their interest was concentrated on the seeing process in motion. They abandoned the traditional pictorial space and integrated practically the whole sensory apparatus into their artistic concepts. Using industrial materials such as mirrors, fluorescent tubes, aluminium and Perspex, they made beholders and their movements integral components of the artwork. This art set out to surprise, involve, overwhelm and appropriate the beholder.
‘The extent to which the physical and psychological space was conquered – in the sense of being redefined – is revealed by this exhibition of works from the circle of Kinetic Art and Zero. Centring on the sensational ‘Focusing Room’ by Adolf Luther (1968), which, alongside the light room by the group Zero at the documenta 3 (1964) was among the major early experience spaces in art. The works embrace beholders in a special way, allowing them to experience unfathomable spaces and poetic light games.’
In keeping with ArtCircle’s business concept, Focusing Room is a pop-up show, and will be staged on the first floor of 48 Albemarle Street, a four storey-white stucco building in the heart of Mayfair. It is the first of three presentations to be mounted in London this year; others will follow in cities around the world.
Founded by Natasha Chagoubatova, Elena Sereda and veteran German gallerist Volker Diehl, ArtCircle works with museums, commercial galleries, collectors and artists’ estates to stage short-term selling exhibitions featuring works by artists of historical importance. Central to its philosophy is to work closely with internationally renowned curators and art historians, which enables the organisation to realise museum-quality, scholarly shows on a more intimate scale than might otherwise be possible.