Blain|Southern New York
Wednesday 26 June
Blain|Southern is pleased to announce Plus Minus, the first exhibition of Herbert Zangs’ work in New York for 50 years.
The exhibition spans several decades of the German artist’s career, featuring the material-focused object-collages for which he is renowned, alongside relief paintings. Key works from the early 1950s to 1980 include his celebrated monochromatic 'Whitenings', foldings and the mathematical signs from which the exhibition title derives.
Herbert Zangs’ first “Whitenings” date from the 1950s, a time of new beginnings in the German art scene. During his studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (under Otto Pankok) he had become friends with fellow students Joseph Beuys and the writer Günter Grass. His use of the monochrome and the serial nature of his work both anticipate the Zero movement, which emphasized art about the material itself, not the artist’s hand.
Zangs began working with found materials and objects in the early 1950s, using corrugated cardboard, paper, wood and jute to create collages which often featured white paint applied onto their surfaces. The white paint, often semi-transparent washes of left-over colour or masonry paint, serves to accentuate the underlying three-dimensionality of the surface material. Knickfaltung (Folding Relief), or Untitled (Knüpfungen, Knottings) (both 1953), demonstrate how he transforms two-dimensional materials such as corrugated cardboard or fabric into an almost sculptural surface through a simple manipulation of the materials, further emphasized by the white paint. Other examples include the “Raster” (“Grid”) series, which offered a rigid, inflexible structural system that Zangs could fight against, as well as his black monochromes, such as Untitled (Black Foldings) (1975). Throughout his oeuvre, the titles remained as austere and strictly descriptive as his work.
Staples were also an important structural material for the artist. We can see this for instance in Rechenstück (1975), a work for which he stapled cut-out mathematical symbols onto a wooden ground. The incorporation of mathematical symbols “x”, “+”, “–“ and “=”, first appeared in the early 1950s and remained a key aspect of his practice. The symbols function as a geometric and aesthetic repertoire of forms and appear throughout his oeuvre. The mathematical signs signify order and logic – a paradoxical element of his practice given the artist’s own nonconformist reputations and instincts. Yet, according to Zangs, the “Multiplied-Plus-Minus-Equals – the great formula of miraculous, unexplainable life, manifests itself time and again in my work, in manifold ways.”
Plus Minus was organised with the collaboration of Emmy de Martelaere.