Fire and Light: Otto Piene in Groton, 1983–2014  

February 9, 2019 – June 2, 2019 

 Otto Piene,  Plusquamperfect  [Past Perfect Participle], 2003, oil and fire on canvas, 31 ½” x 39 2/5”, Private Collection, Photograph © Ante Glibota

Otto Piene, Plusquamperfect [Past Perfect Participle], 2003, oil and fire on canvas, 31 ½” x 39 2/5”, Private Collection, Photograph © Ante Glibota

 Otto Piene,  Studio Overview with Sheep Shed Studio, Fire Studio, and Barn Studio , 2012, markers on paper, 11” x 14”, Private Collection

Otto Piene, Studio Overview with Sheep Shed Studio, Fire Studio, and Barn Studio, 2012, markers on paper, 11” x 14”, Private Collection

 
 

Fire and Light: Otto Piene in Groton, 1983–2014  

Otto Piene is renowned for his groundbreaking work as a founder and member of Group ZERO in the 1950s and 1960s. This postwar avant-garde group, affiliated with a larger international network, is known for challenging the bounds of painting and exploring visual perception through new media. Piene has also been widely recognized for his long-time affiliation with the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT (starting as a fellow in 1968 and eventually serving as director from 1974–1994), where he advanced areas of his practice initiated and ideas generated with ZERO, including his “Sky Art Events”—large-scale outdoor events in which an inflatable sculpture, and sometimes even a person, is flown. 

In the mid-1980s, Piene purchased a home in Groton, Massachusetts where he lived and worked until his death in 2014. The “art farm”—as his residence affectionately came to be called—became another important site for his production. While Piene continued to work in his native Germany and at MIT, he transformed the existing structures on his property into art studios to produce works such as fire paintings and installations like the Light Silo (one of his“Light Ballets”built into a preexisting grain silo). Piene’s practice was informed by his surroundings, most clearly documented in his sketchbooks, as he continued to explore sensory experience and perception through light, movement, and sound, and the elements of fire and air.  

FAM’s exhibition Fire and Light will showcase Piene’s primary threads of production since the mid-1980s, including fire painting, Light Ballets, and tempera gouaches. The exhibition will center on both fire and light as key components of his production, showcasing major works such as Proliferation of the Sun (an immersive installation of digitized hand-painted slides that are projected onto a large inflatable sphere and screens), which has not been on view in the United States since 1968, and his rarely exhibited Light Robots completed in 2013.

Press Release