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Heinz Mack was born on March 8, 1931, in Lollar, Germany. In 1949 he moved to Düsseldorf, where he studied painting at the Kunstakademie from 1950 to 1953. He received a degree in philosophy from the University of Cologne in 1956, and that year began to explore themes of movement and light. From 1956 to 1958 Mack developed his Light Reliefs and Light Dynamos, works made of polished metal which vibrate and reflect the colors of their surroundings. The Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf mounted his first solo exhibition in 1957. In 1957–58, together with Otto Piene, Mack established the Group Zero, which included Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Günter Uecker, and others.
Mack abandoned color in his painting from 1958, producing only black or white canvases. In 1958 he also began to formulate his Sahara Project, an environmental work involving proposals for constructions in the desert and the Arctic. Mack’s first solo show in Paris took place in 1959 at the Galerie Iris Clert. Since 1960 he has executed numerous architectural-scale works; among these are two water walls for a hospital in Diourbel, Senegal, a light carrousel for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and a piece for Expo 70, Osaka. He made the film OxO=Kunst in 1962. Mack lived in New York during 1965–66 and his first solo exhibition in the United States was held at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, in 1966. The following year saw the pubblication of the artist’s journal-catalogue Mackazin. Mack lives and works in Mönchengladbach, Germany, and Ibiza, Spain.
Major international shows in which Mack has partecipated include Documenta III, Kassel, 1964, and the Venice Biennale, 1970. In 1976, with the photographer Thomas Hopker, Mack built sculpture gardens in the Sahara and in Greenland—photographs of these ephemeral works taken before the elements destroyed them were published in Sculpture Safari in 1977. At the beginning of the 1980s he received several public commissions such as the Columne pro caelo, erected in Roncalli Square, Cologne, in 1985, and the design for the German Unification Square in Düsseldorf in 1989. After a 27-year hiatus, Mack started painting again in the 1990s, making large paintings that he titled Chromatic Constellations. He created drawings to accompany a book of poems by Goethe's in 1999, and in 2003 finished the drawings to accompany texts by the 12th-century, Persian philosopher Al-Ghasali.