Groton Artist’s Stunning Visual Pieces on Display
By Nick Mallard
FITCHBURG -- Born in Germany in 1928, Otto Piene created art that has been seen all over the world.
After leading a fascinating life, he settled in Groton in 1983 and continued his work until his death in 2014, creating stunning visual pieces involving light and how it plays on various media. And today, Piene’s visionary work can be seen at the Fitchburg Art Museum -- at least through the beginning of June.
In its “Fire and Light: Otto Piene in Groton, 1983-2014” exhibition, the museum displays paintings from the German, as well as light and slides projected on screens and an inflatable sphere, in addition to audio. But the centerpiece of the exhibit is Piene’s Light Robots, which were showcased Sunday by Terrana Curatorial Candice Bancheri.
The robots -- large black pieces -- were moved by remote control, resulting in a “light ballet.”
“What we have focuses on his mid-1980s work, produced or revisited in Groton,” Bancheri told the 60 or so people in attendance. “Piene converted a farm to a studio space. “Fire and Light’ shows some of his key components in practice.”
Bancheri noted that Piene was drafted into the military at 15 and his work in aviation influenced his desire to create art with light.
“Even his work later in life have ideas that shine from earlier in his life,” she said.
Piene’s “Proliferation of the Sun,” a 25-minute multimedia experience was on display, with hand-painted slides projected on screens and an inflatable sphere. The project creates what the museum labels “an installation,” defined as “an experience with moving light, inflatable sculptures and colored projections of light to create an otherworldly environment.”
The Light Robots were showcased in a small, darkened gallery. Piene’s original pieces, stationary boxes with lights projected through holes, sat in one corner. And in the middle of the exhibit were his later works: larger black boxes with perforations for light to shine through while mounted on motorized wheels.
“He didn’t finish the robots until 2013, so it’s unlikely that he even had the chance to see them really function in the way he intended,” Bancheri said of Piene, who used his background at MIT -- where he taught in the 1980s -- to help fabricate the robots.
In addition to the displayed pieces, the museum put together a “learning lounge,” where people could experiment with light and objects to create their own pieces.