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1st US Showing of the Historical 1st Broadcast Television Program
by Artists Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini
PIERRE MENARD GALLERY | 10 Arrow Street | Cambridge, MA
on December 4th, 2009 at 7 pm

Aldo Tambellini & Otto Piene


Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini will be reunited to present the 1st US projection of the program “Black Gate Cologne,” the historical 1st broadcast television program done by artists.  The event took place in 1968 in the television studios of WDR in Cologne Germany. The program included light sculptures, projected paintings, film and lights and audience participation. There were two consecutive 45-minute broadcasts with different audiences recorded in the studio of WDR, and then, in part, mixed together to intensify the experience of the viewer.The program was produced by Wibke Von Bonin and directed by Ferdi Roth.

Black Gate Cologne has been widely written about in German Art Publications and exhibited in museum and galleries internationally and is part of the Germany Documentation “40 Year of German Video Art.” In 2009 Christine Mehring, wrote in “Television Art’s Abstract Starts: Europe Circa 1944-1969, October Magazine 125, ‘Art/ Theory/Criticism/Politics, Summer 2008, MIT Press:

“The viewer effectively experiences television as it develops at this moment from a medium for making self-reflexive abstract art to one that conveys, structures, and manipulates information, particularly that of a political nature. Black Gate Cologne figured the transformation of television’s capability to reflect ambivalence toward the German economic miracle into an increasingly skeptical attitude toward the medium in Western Europe at large, as television maintained its public nature but began to be Americanized. The significance of Black Gate Cologne as the first work of art to make full-scale use of television thus coincided with its embodiment and representation of the end of television art’s abstract starts.”

Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini cofounded “The Black Gate Theater” in New York’s Lower East Side in 1967. This was New York City’s 1st space for live multi-media (Electromedia) performances and installations. The programs within this provided the inspiration for “Black Gate Cologne.

Otto Piene, born in Laasphe (Germany) in 1928, studied at the Blochererschule, the Art Academy in Munich, and the State Art Academy in Düsseldorf.  In 1957he took the state exam in philosophy at the University of Cologne.  Starting in 1955, Piene created letter reliefs and perforated grid-light boxes.  Two years later he developed the first of his stencil paintings (monochrome vibrationstructures).  At the same time, together with Heinz Mack, he organized evening exhibitions in his studio in Düsseldorf, and in 1957-61, edited and published ZEROMagazines 1, 2 and 3.  At the end of the 1950s, Piene staged his first light ballets at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf and developed the first of his smoke and fire works, his mechanized light sculptures and environments.

In 1962, together with Mack and Günther Uecker, he installed the first Salon deLumière at the Stelelijk Museum for Exhibition Nul in Amsterdam.  Over the course of the 1960s, Piene created light, smoke, fire, air and helium\sculptures and events.  In 1964, he was a visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with subsequent appointments at MIT, where in 1974 he became the Director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.  There he widened the scope of telecommunications, laser, video, holograms, Sky Art and environmental art.  Also at MIT, he organized a series of Sky Art Conferences, internationally under his direction.

In 1972, he created the Olympic Rainbow (700 meters long) and since 1969 many Sky Events internationally.  Celebrated multimedia events organized by Piene include The Proliferation of the Sun (1967) and The Medium is the Medium (1968) through WGBH in Boston with Aldo Tambellini, Nam June Paik, and others.  Piene is Professor Emeritus at CAVS/MIT.

Aldo Tambellini, painter, sculptor, photographer, video artist, film-maker and poet was born in Syracuse, New York in 1930. Father from Sao Paolo, Brazil - Mother was from Italy. He was taken to Lucca (Tuscany) Italy at the age of 18 months.  He was enrolled at the A. Passaglia Art Institute Art at the age of 10.  During WWII, at 13, Aldo miraculously survived the air raid bombing which destroyed most of his neighborhood.  He returned to the United States in ‘46. He received a BFA in Art from Syracuse University and an MFA from Notre Dame University in 1958 studying with Ivan Mestrovic.

In ‘59, Aldo moved to N.Y’s Lower East Side.  He founded the underground, “counter-culture” group, “Group Center,” which organized public art events, alternative ways to present artists’ work to the community, and other activities to raise the political and artistic consciousness of the public. In ’64 Group Center held what was probably the first Loft Show in what is now SOHO in NYC.  Aldo was a pioneer in the video art movement in the 60’s.  In 1965, he began painting directly on film beginning his “Black Film Series” of which, “Black TV,” won the International Grand Prix, Oberhausen Film Festival, ’69-now in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art.  Simultaneously, Aldo began a series of “Electromedia Performances.” “Black,” a work in progress, organically brought together, projected paintings, film, video, poetry, light, dance, sound and improvisational musicians, culminating with “Black Zero” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in “Intermedia ’68.” Black Zero was re-created for PERFORMA09 in 2009 in NYC.

As Ann Brodzsky, then Editor of Arts Canada said of Aldo in 1967:  “Tambellini defines his role as an artist through the expression of a world view based on the concept of ‘Black.’ For Tambellini, ‘Black’ leads to an awareness of a sense of a new reality.”  He believes that we are “The Primitives of a New Era” experiencing the cosmos through the voyages of the Space Explorers aware that we are all part of a Planetary Society.

Aldo was a Fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, 1976 -1984.

John Wronoski, Owner of the Pierre Menard Gallery, is “honored to have Piene and Tambellini at the Gallery.  I admire their work and look forward to presenting the ground-breaking piece, “Black Gate Cologne” to the Boston Community.” 

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