Otto Piene & Electronic Art in New England, Jan. 10 – Feb. 15, 2015

Otto Piene feature

Curated by: George Fifield, Joseph Ketner II & John Powell
Opening Reception: Friday, January 9, 2015

The Boston Cyberarts Gallery is pleased to announce its first exhibition in 2015, Otto Piene & Electronic Art in New England, which will examine Otto Piene and his role as a founding figure in art and technology in New England. From the time that György Kepes invited Piene to be a Fellow at his newly founded Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) at MIT in 1968, Piene catalyzed several generations of artists in collaborative ventures to harness nature and technology and create interactive, participatory events that engaged the public in spectacular feats of what he coined “Sky Art.” His career marks the initiation of New England as a center of art in technology in the United States and around the globe. Otto Piene passed away in July 2014 while participating in his monumental installation of Proliferation of the Sun (1967) and a Sky Art event for the New National Gallery of Germany, his native country.

Otto Piene and his Sky Art at MIT, May 2011
Otto Piene and his Sky Art at MIT, May 2011

Piene was a founding member of the postwar German group Zero that played a formative role in reintroducing kinetic art and technology to the vocabulary of international art in the 1950s and 1960s. Based upon the collaborative light installation that group Zero produced for documenta 2 in Kassel, Germany in 1964, they were invited to exhibit in the United States. György Kepes, a protégée of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and the Bauhaus had recently joined MIT to begin his CAVS. He took the initiative to attend Piene’s Light Ballet at the Howard Wise Gallery in 1965 and invited Piene to join him at MIT. Beginning as a fellow in 1968, Piene served as the director of the CAVS between 1974 and 1994, when he was named an emeritus professor.

As director of CAVS, Piene launched a new body of outdoor, inflatable sculptures that he referred to as “Sky Art”. The first such event was the Light Line Experiment at MIT in May 1968, which evolved into his monumental rainbows that he first produced at MIT and on the Charles River in 1971 and became recognized internationally as the closing event for the ill-fated Munich Olympics in 1972.

The exhibition will document the range of Otto Piene’s work in Boston from 1967 through 2014 and its international reach. It will present an inflatable sculpture, videos, projections, photographs and ephemera to document the key moments in Piene’s career, the many electronic artists who came through CAVS and thus the development of art and technology in New England. A series of Wednesday evening symposia on key elements in Piene’s art and history in Boston will be announced shortly.

The exhibition is curated by George Fifield, Joseph Ketner II, and John Powell and draws extensively from the CAVS archives at MIT.