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It's only after taking a closer look, however, that it becomes clear how deceptive the initial impression actually is - that the apparent "nature" actually derives from another, harder nature. While the contrasts dominate at a distance, seen from close up, the works produce an oscillation of perception between optical deception and the knowledge of a highly concrete, nearly banal objectivity. It almost seems as though the picture's effect were spreading into the room, determining it: "My attempt at activating a real space through creating structures, to enable that space to be experienced as a pure state of objective aesthetics, led me to pursue new formal means," Uecker stated in the early sixties. "I use nails as structural elements; I don't want them to be seen as nails. In using these means, I'm concerned in creating an oscillation in their ordered relationship to one another, one that disturbs their geometric order, is capable of unsettling it. The white objects are to be seen as a state of extreme intensity in continuous change, due to the fluctuation in light. I consider mutability to be important; it is able to convey the beauty of movement."

Günther Uecker: Verletztes dunkles Feld, Deutsche Bank Collection

In all likelihood, Gunther Uecker, like so many artists of his time, could have continued producing his nail objects for the rest of his life. Yet this would have meant stagnation at some point; to an artist who had found his creative creed in movement, this prospect would have been unsatisfactory indeed.

Instead, Uecker chose diversity, making films and putting on performances again and again. Throughout the eighties, he turned to painting with greater urgency, often applying the paint to the canvas with his bare hands.

Günther Uecker: Performance "Schwarzraum-Weissraum",
Museum Folkwang Essen, Germany, 1975,
from catalogue: Kunstverein Braunschweig, 1979

Uecker's themes have changed over time. Now, the suffering human being increasingly occupies his attention. He has also been integrating language into his art; in the work 60 Wörter aus dem Alten Testament - Verletzung der Menschen durch den Menschen (60 Words from the Old Testament - Injury of People at Other People's Hands , 1992), for instance, Uecker painted words such as "Fallen" (to fall), "Zerren" (to pull), "Schleifen" (to drag), and "Ausrotten" (to exterminate) onto empty sheets of paper. Gunther Uecker's commitment does not restrict itself to the creation of art alone. To this day, he has also remained actively involved in the fight for human rights in Tibet. In essence, Uecker, who was awarded a Bundesverdienstkreuz 1.Klasse (German Federal Service Cross, 1st Class) and is a member of the French "L'Ordre pour le Mérite," has always remained highly political. But it was a long way that began back at a party on the banks of the Rhine in Dusseldorf.

Translation: Andrea Scrima

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