SPACES OF LIGHT. Piero Dorazio and the International ZERO Movement

SPACES OF LIGHT. Piero Dorazio and the International ZERO Movement

Curated by Francesca Pola

In collaboration with the Piero Dorazio Archive


1 September – 30 November 2021

Opening and presentation of the book: 14 September 2021, from 6.00 pm

Cortesi Gallery, Via Morigi 8, 20123 Milan



Cortesi Gallery Milano is pleased to present an exhibition and a book devoted to the relations between Piero Dorazio (1927, Rome – 2005, Perugia), a master of Post-War Italian abstract art, and the international ZERO movement. The exhibition, curated by Francesca Pola and organized in collaboration with the Piero Dorazio Archives, draws a comparison between Dorazio’s work and a network of European artists who in the late 1950s sought to overcome the gestural and subjective identity of Art Informel in favour of a more objective and direct relationship between art and the world. The works on display, many of which coming from important private collections, illustrate the deep historical and artistic connection between Dorazio and ZERO, in order to reveal the depth and significance of this relationship.



From his début as a painter in the 1940s, when he was still an architecture student, Dorazio established himself as a pioneer of Post-War abstractionism. He developed a poetic vision and visual language centred on a redefinition of the technique of painting by assigning a new meaning to light, colour, space, and structure. At the same time, in Europe – particularly between Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and France – a new generation of artists started exploring an innovative conception of art, by creating monochrome surfaces, weaves, and grids, as well as objects modulating, reflecting, or projecting light. Light and movement, structure and vibration, became central elements in the research of geographically distant artists whose mutual connections this exhibition aims to highlight.



The project, which in addition to the exhibit itself includes a detailed publication, has found in the Cortesi Gallery – that has always focused on research pertaining to the international ZERO movement – a perfect setting to bring out the depth and significance of the relationship between Dorazio and ZERO.



In regular contact with one another, the representatives of the ZERO movement never presented themselves as a closed group, but rather as a large workshop and international catalyst. Already by the second half of the 1950s, when Dorazio defined his style of painting, marked by the use of bright colours and strokes creating vibrating monochromatic weavings, he had become strongly connected to the German context. He directly and fruitfully engaged with many ZERO artists, starting from the movement’s founders Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, and its first, leading representatives, including Günther Uecker.



The year 2021 marks the 60th anniversary of some salient and crucial moments in these relations: Piero Dorazio’s major solo exhibition at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen in Düsseldorf in October and November 1961, which was attended by ZERO artists; the publication and presentation of the third, last, and most significant issue of the journal ZERO, featuring contributions by over thirty international artists (including Dorazio himself), in July 1961; and the first exhibition from the “Nove Tendencije” series, inaugurated at the Galerija Suvremene Umjetnosti in Zagreb in August 1961, and inspired by Dorazio’s personal room at the Venice Biennale the previous year. These contacts, characterized by the sharing of a new, future-oriented vision of art and of the world, also led Dorazio to participate in a series of important ZERO exhibitions, including “NUL” at the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum (1962 and 1965).



Dorazio played a key role in introducing the ZERO movement in the United States, insofar as he invited Piene to teach at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as visiting professor. Here, in 1964, Piene organized the first ZERO exhibition in the US, at the Institute of Contemporary Art. A few months later, Dorazio and various artists associated with ZERO (Mack, Mavignier, and Uecker, but also Enrico Castellani, Walter Leblanc, and François Morellet, among others) participated in “The Responsive Eye”, an exhibition inaugurated at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1965 and which travelled across the United States until 1966: a major international exhibit devoted to visual perception.



The works on display in Milan have all been selected as highly revealing of the unfolding of these relations, which also extend across the following decades. Among them are some rarities (a 1954 relief and some highly unique works on paper from the 1950s and 1960s), in addition to some important works that were put on display on key historical occasions and are now part of important Italian and international collections, such as Reading the Green 1959, from the prestigious Sammlung Domnick.



“SPACES OF LIGHT. Piero Dorazio and the international ZERO movement”, held at the Cortesi Gallery of Milan, is accompanied by a bilingual (Italian/English) book edited by Francesca Pola and published by Skira. In addition to the works on display at the exhibition, this volume brings together a collection of other crucial works and important materials (letters, photos, and documents) made available for the first time by the Archivio Piero Dorazio and in-depth international research. The project aims to present key moments and ideas attesting to – and confirming – Piero Dorazio’s role and his relationship with ZERO artists, not only in terms of the correspondence and exchanges between the two, but also as an ideal source of inspiration for a whole European generation.