Heinz Mack: The Breath of Light

Curated by Francesca Pola


12 September - 8 November 2019

Opening: 11 September, 6PM - 8.30PM

Catalogue presentation in the presence of the Artist: 24 October, 6PM - 8.30 PM

Installation view, Heinz Mack: The Breath of Light, Cortesi Gallery Milano, 2019. Photo: Bruno Bani

Heinz Mack (Lollar, 1931) is one of the main artists of the second half of the 20th Century: a radical and revolutionary figure, who is continuously renewing expressive essentiality concepts and developing new artistic techniques since the ‘50s.

The exhibition at the Cortesi Gallery, curated by Francesca Pola, is the first solo show in Italy dedicated to this artist, with the aim towidely retrace his whole artistic iter. Almost after sixty years of his first Italian exhibition, held in Milan in 1960 at the Azimut Gallery invited by Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, followed by that in 1963 at Galleria Cadario.

Made in close collaboration with the artist and his studio, the exhibition collects a series of fundamental examples of his work, concentrating on one of the crucial point of his creative activity: the relationship between light, color, structure and space. The exhibited works, mostly of large dimensions, start from 1959 to 2018 marking the key moments of his creative activity which placed Mack among the figures of the international artistic scenario of the time.

The entire Mack’s work has always been focused on the fundamental role played by the light as a constitutive element of vision which he turned into a the key of a poetic language able to radically modify the bases of the modern art. In 1957 (together with the colleague and friend Otto Piene) the artist founded the international movement ZERO and has experimented a plurality of artistic techniques going from paintings to embossed canvases, from sculpture to installations, from drawings to writings, from photographies to movies.

He did not just employed non-conventional materials related to the industrial world as synthetic resins, aluminum, plexiglas, glass, steel, luminous and kinetic devices, but he has also been able to deeply renew the use and the outcomes of those materials considered more conventional as oil, acrylic, marble and bronze. The identity between light and color has been transformed into shapes of dialectic and active relationship such as structure, vibration, rhythm and it also constitutes the central element of the continuity and of his work’s metamorphosis which is the key point that Cortesi Gallery intends to present in this exhibition through the “breath” of this light (in) variation of surfaces and spaces.

The exhibition starts with rare works from 1959 belonging to the aluminium series “Lichtrelief” (“light reliefs”) which has been shown in January 1960 at the Azimut Gallery in Milan during the historical exhibition “The new artistic conception” with a dedication on the back by the artist and friend Piero Manzoni. Alongside these and others “light reliefs”, is exposed a selection of significant paintings from the cycle “Dynamische Struktur” (“dynamic structures)”, many of which have been exhibited in significant moments during the first years of ZERO (e.g. at the Hessenhuis in Antwerp or the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf) representing the same theme of the luminous vibration through a similar structuring and a chromatic palette reduced to the essentiality of the blacks, whites and greys.

Two important Stele sculptures of three meters high (1966), synthetizing the light through glasses and lenses, are presented as space-modifying devices as well as the great Erzengel Michael und Gabriel(Archangel Michael and Gabriel) made in 1972.

It is from this liminal area of the color, between light and dark considered by Mack the germinal place of the vision that get started his great transition of 1991. When the artist starts focusing on a new pictorial work that translates his intuitions ofredefinition of the surface and the space into a new and surprising chromatic key. This is how the monumental “Chromatische Konstellation” (“chromatic constellations”) were made: an impetuous painting, made of pure colors, free from any naturalistic or descriptive element rather the unfolding of the luminous spectrum as a distillate of thought and energy. In the exhibition are shown real masterpieces of the serie as Ex Tempora (1998) which is about four meters by three, that exemplarily materializes this vision of the color as space and light and that also proceeds in intermediate stages of works where everything is focused on rhythm perceived as an harmonic sequence of a chromatic expansion in a free sensuality and impetus luminosity. To complete the exhibition there are also some sculptures that investigate in a three dimensions way these aspects as the Circular Space Sculpture (2000). A particular attention is dedicated to the latest activity of the artist in which the dialectics of the pure colors of his “Chromatische Konstellation” (chromatic constellations) (2018), stratified or juxtaposed in counterpoint or shade, articulates the spatiality of the surface in new and radiant tonal harmonies.

The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual monograph (Italian/English), curated by Francesca Pola edited by Skira, including a wide, critical essay with context pictures, the images of all the exhibitedworks, a significant selection of the artist’s scripts relating to them, views of the exhibition, and a bio – bibliographic appendix. Founded on an extended historical – artistic research, it intends to offer new cues and occasions to the International studies about Mack s work.



Cortesi Gallery Milan
Corso di Porta Nuova, 46/B
20121 Milano – IT
+39 02 36 75 65 39

Gallery Coordinator:
Valentina Lovato

Gallery Assistant:

Chiara Mantegazza




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