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The City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia is displaying until November 6, The Sky Over Nine Columns, an installation by German artist Heinz Mack, whose works use light as a central axis. Kosme de Barañano is the curator of this project, which consists of nine symmetrical columns, more than seven meters high each, coated with 850,000 golden tesserae.
The impressive work has been touring lately, starting on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where it was on view during the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennial, followed by a stint in the sculpture garden of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul from September 2015—April 2016. “For me, space is as important as sculpture, the artist said in a statement. “I cannot imagine one without the other,” he continued, stressing the importance of the work’s selected geographic locations.
Mack envisioned these columns (the oldest element in the history of architecture, linking directly heaven and earth) as a dialogue with the Altan Tepe Temple in Anatolia, the temples of Egypt, as well as the six pillars of the Temple of the Queen of Sheba in Yemen. The intercultural connection of Orient and Occident, which has long played a central role in the artist’s aesthetic, is enriched by this relationship to historic sites of worship, but also by the material of the mosaics themselves—2 x 2 cm mosaic stones, covered in 24-carat gold leaf, produced in Venice.
Mack, along with other German artists, represented Germany in 1970 at the 35th Venice Art Biennial. Since the early fifties, he has developed a genuine artistic language based on light and color, becoming well-known for creating kinetic art. In 1958 he co-founded the ZERO Group with Otto Piene and Günther Uecker, which led to an international movement joined by Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, and Piero Manzoni. The group’s aspiration was to transform and redefine art in the aftermath of World War II, pioneering themes that anticipated Land Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art. They explored new ideas in painting (the monochrome, serial structures, and fire and smoke paintings); the introduction of movement and light as both formal and idea-based aspects of art; the use of space as subject and material; the interrogation of the relationship between nature, technology, and humankind; and the production of live actions or demonstrations. (New Yorkers might recall The Guggenheim’s late 2014 exhibition dedicated to the German postwar group, “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s.”)