Haacke and Piene at MIT

By GREG COOK  |  November 15, 2011

Pairing Haacke and Piene is a sharp move — recognizing the history they have together (they became friendly in the '50s) as well as common themes in their art. Both men grew up in Nazi Germany (Piene born 1928, Haacke in 1936). Haacke has referred to that period with works like his 1988 recreation of a Nazi monument. Piene comes at it less directly in his signature light shows and "Sky Art," inflated sculptures of flowers, stars, and rainbows lifted into the air by helium. As a teen, late in World War II, he served as an anti-aircraft gunner. Clear skies meant good weather for aerial attacks. Night skies were lit up by tracer bullets. "We want to exhibit in the sky," Piene wrote in 1965, " . . . to enter new space peacefully — that is, freely, playfully and actively, not as slaves of war technology." The MIT shows make clear that early in their careers, both artists turned to air and machines, reclaiming them from war and reimagining them as sources of joy.

Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Arts, List Visual Arts Center, MIT
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