Günther Uecker was born in Wendorf, Mecklenburg, Germany in 1930, the son of a farmer on the Wustrow peninsula. Between 1949-1953, Uecker studied at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee. Leaving East Germany for the West, he then continued his studies under Otto Pangkok at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1955-1958.
During the 1950s, Uecker developed a strong interest in meditative practices and the philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam. These influences allowed him to develop his own ritualistic practice, wherein nails are repeatedly hammered onto the canvas in abstract forms. Now his most notable works, these pieces operate in the space between painting and sculpture, creating complex displays of light and shadow.
In 1957, Uecker met follow artists Yves Klein, Heinz Mack, and Otto Piene. In 1958, Mack and Peine organized and hosted the exhibition “Das Rote Bild” in their studio at 69 Gladbacher Strasse in Düsseldorf. Uecker participated in the exhibition, which became a starting point for the formation of the ZERO group, although Uecker did not formally join until 1961. The group was a loose coalition of artists who were primarily interested in exploring elements of light, technology, and an expansion beyond the traditional two-dimensional confines of the canvas.
Throughout the 1960s, Uecker continued to exhibit his work, also spending time in New York. In 1966, he set up a studio in New York and exhibited “ZERO Garden N.Y.” at the Howard Wise Gallery. That same year, the Kunstmuseum Bonn presented the final ZERO exhibition, after which the group disbanded.
Uecker’s work is included in numerous public institutions such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Tate Modern, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris; and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy. Uecker participated in Documenta, Kassel in 1964, 1968, and 1977, and the Venice Biennale in 1970. He has been the subject of major museum retrospectives at the Central House of Artists, Moscow (1988); Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich (1993); and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2015).
Uecker currently lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany.