Otto Piene: Fire and Brimstone


"The energy of the light is transformed in a mysterious way over the field of the picture into the vital energy of the viewer." (Otto Piene)

Fire and Brimstone

Opening 8 September, 6-9 PM


We are very pleased to present our second solo exhibition featuring Otto Piene, a pioneer of light and fire art, as well as a co-founder of the internationally renowned Group ZERO. This exhibition, titled 'Fire and Brimstone,' showcases a selection of his most significant series of works, including the "Smoke and Fire Paintings," "Fire Gouaches," "Sky Art," and "Ceramics."In addition to his experimental work with fire and light, Piene also devoted himself intensively to ceramics in later years.
The "Smoke Paintings" hold a central place in Piene's body of work. In this series, he employs smoke as an artistic medium by burning special pigments on canvas using torches or lighters. The result is captivating abstract compositions, where plumes of smoke traverse the canvas in organic forms. The ephemeral nature of smoke grants these artworks a unique aesthetic, symbolizing both transience and transformation.
In the "Fire Gouaches," Piene merges the element of fire with the traditional technique of gouache painting. Here, he uses flaming brushes to spray pigments onto paper, creating distinctive textures and gradients through the heat of the fire. The vibrancy and energy exuding from these works enchant the viewer and allow them to experience the power of fire in art.


‘When I see, in my thoughts, my sky sculptures of the sky events, such as "Berlin Star." "Brussels Flower." "Milwaukee Anemone," 50 to 100 meters high, 15 meters in diameter, I also see my fire gouaches, which approximately 20 years ago predicted and sugge-sted those forms and spaces through painting’ (O.P. "Design for a Flying Sculpture," 1967).

A significant portion of the exhibition is dedicated to the lesser-known studies of Piene's Sky Art events. Piene founded "Sky Art" in 1969, reflecting his fascination with the sky and light. Using helium balloons, kites, or light projections, he crafts monumental outdoor installations that invite viewers to perceive the sky in new ways. The hues of the sky and the interplay of light and shadow are captured in Piene's works, evoking a poetic atmosphere. Among the most renowned Sky Art performances are "Berlin Star" (1984), staged in the California desert in 1986, "Brussels Flowers" (1977-78), exhibited on the roof of the New York Guggenheim Museum in 1984, and "Olympic Rainbow" (1972), created for the Munich Olympics. The works exhibited here for the first time, such as "Shadow Play 1992," "Volcano 1992," and "Berlin Star 17, 1992," are painterly interpretations of these Sky Art events. (Please see blow videos from National Galerie, Berlin and Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich for more information about 'Sky Art').
In addition to his experimental work with fire and light, Piene also devoted himself intensively to ceramics in later years. The forms and designs of these pieces reference grid paintings, light ballets, and celestial art sculptures. For Piene, the most fascinating aspect of ceramics was the direct confrontation with the elements: "In my new ceramics, the four elements come together: the flow of water combines with clay, which later evaporates in the fire of the kiln and dries in the air." Only the thin layer of precious metals brings these sculptures to life. It captures light, refracts and reflects it, generating a shimmering glimmer on the retina. A dance of light of captivating beauty emerges.
Pienes works are represented in over 200 Museums and public collections worldwide. Some of his Sky Artworks are currently exhibited in Shirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt . In 2024, the Tinguely Museum, Basel will show a solo exhibition entitled Wege zum Paradies ("Paths to Paradise").

Installation Views