I use mechanical means to overcome the subjective gesture, to objectivise it, to create a situation of freedom.–Günther Uecker, 1964-1965
Günther Uecker is a German sculptor-stage designer who turned away from figurative painting in 1957 to make monochromatic relief structures with nails. He was a member of Zero, a group of artists that sought to stimulate dialogue between artists and scientists, and promoted in their work a radical rethinking of the picture plane. The nailed picture became the antithesis of the painted picture; it allowed Uecker to explore the articulation of light through the shadows created by the nails, the unchanging ritual of hammering, and the violation of the sacred surface–the canvas of a painting.
He often incorporated corks and cardboard tubes into the surface of the paintings, and nailed items of furniture such as chairs, pianos, and television sets to create freestanding sculptural forms. As part of a Zero demonstration in 1961, Uecker painted a street white in an effort to jolt and stimulate the imagination of an ossified society. In 1974, after making a number of works influenced by the Conceptual Art and Body Art movements, Uecker returned to designing stage sets for operas.