Otto Piene, an internationally renowned artist known for his experiments in kinetic and performance art, spent the last 30 years of his life living and working on a farm in Groton.

The works he created at his "art farm" take center stage in "Fire and Light: Otto Piene in Groton, 1983-2014" at Fitchburg Art Museum, Feb. 9-June 2.

"This exhibition is a big deal for the FAM," said Rebecca Wright, the museum's director of development.

The exhibition, Piene's largest American solo museum exhibition to date, will present several major bodies of work that he created during his time at his studio and farm in Groton. Here, he transformed the existing structures on his property into art studios to produce such artworks as fire paintings and site-specific installations.

"Piene's practice was influenced by his surroundings, most clearly documented in his sketchbooks, as he explored sensory experience and perception through light, movement, sound, fire and air," notes FAM's press release on the exhibition.

"Due to a special relationship with Piene's estate, FAM has access to materials unavailable to other American museums at this time," Wright noted.

Piene (pronounced PEEN-uh) died at age 85 in 2014 while in Berlin attending the opening of a retrospective of his work. He was born in Germany and studied painting and art education in Munich and Dusseldorf, also studied philosophy in Cologne.

In 1957, he and Heinz Mack founded the Zero Group, a collection of artists dedicated to redefining art in the aftermath of World War II.


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The group attracted followers from the Americas, Europe and Japan and was strongly involved in conceptual and performance art.

His New York Times obituary noted: "Among other things, the Zero artists explored new modes of painting, including monochromes and unusual materials: Mr. Piene himself experimented with smoke, soot and burned paint. They employed light, open space and movement as rudiments of artworks and used technology to create artistic effects."

He was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania beginning in 1964. Not long after, he affiliated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the first fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. In 1972, he became a professor of environmental art at MIT and was the director of CAVS from 1974-1993.

Visit www.fitchburgartmuseum.org for info and details on special events in conjunction with the exhibition.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.