Gustav Meztger, “Extremes Touch: Dancing Tubes, Mica Cube, Drop on Hotplate, Untitled,” 1968/2017, Series of installations and mixed materials, Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. Shanghai Himalayas Museum installation view, 2017

 

“Extremes Touch,” a series of experiments using compressed air, water, heat, and light were first produced in 1968 at the brand new Filtration Laboratory in the Chemical Engineering Department of University College, Swansea. “Dancing Tubes,” “Mica Cube,” “Drop on Hotplate,” and “Untitled” utilize plastic tubes, crystalline mica, liquid nitrogen, water, a laboratory hotplate, and compressed air to explore the scientific laws that order our existence. Drop after drop of water disintegrates into steam, plastic tubes come alive with compressed air, mica flakes dance as they reflect light, and a thin veil of mist reveals a faint rainbow—transforming basic materials from a laboratory into beautiful works of art.

Gustav Metzger was not only recognized as one of the most important artists of the post-war avant-garde, but also as a tireless anti-capitalist and environmental activist. He was known internationally for his first manifesto Auto Destructive Art, written in 1959, a response to a social and political situation that he believed to be driving towards total annihilation.


Gustav Metzger (1926–2017) was a London-based artist, born in Nuremberg to Polish-Jewish parents. From 1945-1953, he studied art in Cambridge, London, Antwerp, and Oxford. By 1958, Metzger was becoming heavily involved in anti- capitalist, anti-consumerist movements, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, leading to a short imprisonment for encouraging mass non-violent civil disobedience. Metzger’s political activism provided the foundation for his first artist manifesto in 1959, Auto-destructive Art, which he described as “a desperate last-minute subversive political weapon... an attack on the capitalist system.” Auto-destructive art sought to provide a mirror of a social and political system, which Metzger felt was progressing towards total obliteration. At the heart of his practice, which spanned over 65 years, was a series of constantly opposing yet interdependent forces such as destruction and creation. He had solo exhibitions at MAMAC, Nice (2017), MUSAC, León (2016), Tate Britain, London (2016), Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2015), CoCA Torun, Poland (2015), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2015), Kunsthall Oslo and Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2015), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2014), and Serpentine Gallery, London (2009).

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