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“Le Onde: Waves of Italian Influence (1914–1971)” runs Aug. 22–Jan. 3, 2016, at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. This exhibition of nearly 20 works from the museum’s collection follows Italian contributions to the transnational evolution of abstraction, through movements and tendencies such as futurism, spatialism, op art and kinetic art.

The exhibition includes several works that have been exhibited only rarely or not at all since entering the collection. Among those that have not been on view since the Hirshhorn’s inaugural exhibition in 1974–1975 are works by Zero group founder Heinz Mack, French op artist Yvaral and Italian painter Carlo Battaglia and several works by Italian artist Enrico Castellani.

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About halfway through the 20th century, the international postwar artists who called themselves the Zero Group tried to hit the reset button. As they saw it, modern art had been irretrievably damaged by two world wars. The only thing to do was start over.

“The Art of Zero: Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Günther Uecker and Friends,” at the Neuberger Museum of Art, takes us back to that clean-slate moment. Its artworks soothe and pacify with flickering lights, gentle kinetic movements and endless variations on the white-on-white monochrome.

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