Günther Uecker is a German painter and object artist. He became known especially with his relief-like nail paintings. A part of his artistic objects can be assigned to kinetic art.
Uecker, who grew up on the Wustrow peninsula, where his father was employed as an engineer and ground crew on an experimental airfield for the aviation industry, experienced the end of the Second World War there. He studied painting in Wismar from 1949 to 1953 and at the Academy of Art in Berlin-Weissensee. On the occasion of the World Youth Festival in East Berlin in 1951, he used the opportunity to visit West Berlin for the first time and came into contact with abstract art. In 1953, after the uprising of 17 June, he left the GDR and moved to West Berlin. There he studied religion and philosophy, which was to influence his work.
Because he wanted to study with his idol Otto Pankok, he went to West Germany in 1955. This was done through the emergency refugee camp for male adolescent GDR refugees in Sandbostel, where he was interrogated for weeks as a supposed GDR smuggler. He then continued his studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1955 to 1957 under Otto Pankok. In 1956/1957 he created his typical nail paintings for the first time: three-dimensional, white-painted reliefs made of nails, which receive their own dynamic through the alignment of the nails and the interaction of light and shadow. From 1962 Uecker added nail reliefs to everyday objects such as furniture.
In 1961 Uecker became a member of the artist group ZERO, founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, whereupon he also turned to kinetic light art. Together with Gerhard Richter he staged the demonstration "Museums can be inhabitable places". The performance of the terror orchestra in the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, a noisy installation consisting of 20 machines, vacuum cleaners, a laundry drum, hammer and sickle, caused a nationwide sensation.
Together with Thomas Lenk, Heinz Mack, and Georg Karl Pfahler, Uecker was the German representative at the 1970 Venice Biennale. From 1971 to 1974 he worked in South America, Africa and Asia and from 1984 to 1985 in Japan, Siberia, China, Iceland and Mongolia. Since the 1980s, he has taken a stand on political issues in his works: for example, he reacted to the Chernobyl catastrophe with the cycle "Ash Pictures". Further political references can be found in his works on Iraq, environmental problems and others.
From 1974 to 1995, Uecker taught as professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. His master students included Halina Jaworski, Klaus Schmitt and Matthias Hintz. In 1999 he designed the prayer room in the new Reichstag building in Berlin. In 2004 he designed the open-air stage for a performance of Wilhelm Tell by Schiller at the - supposedly - historical site on the Rütliwiese. In December 2008 Uecker was co-founder of the Zero foundation.
Further founders were the ZERO artists Heinz Mack and Otto Piene as well as the foundation museum kunst palast. The foundation is based in Düsseldorf's Medienhafen; its aim is to preserve, present, research and promote the ZERO movement,