December 09, 2019

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The Museum der Moderne Salzburg and the a comprehensive retrospective of the oeuvre of the extraordinary Italian artist Marisa Merz .

25 May, 2018

Marisa Merz

With Il cielo è grande spazio / The Sky Is a Great Space, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg presents for the first time after more than ten years a comprehensive retrospective in the German-speaking countries of the oeuvre of the extraordinary Italian artist Marisa Merz (b. Turin, IT, 1926).

Spanning five decades, the exhibition at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the oeuvre of Marisa Merz, the only female representative of the Arte Povera.

Opening with works from the mid-1960s including the so-called ”Living Sculpture” (1966), the presentation traces the evolution of Merz’s art through numerous paintings and drawings, wire and wax installations, and the enigmatic sculptural heads and faces from the 1980s and 1990s to her most recent expansive environments.

The so-called Arte Povera emerged in industrialized Northern Italy in the 1960s and drew attention with works made out of mundane and unconventional “poor” materials. Rather than promulgating a stylistic or ideological creed, however, the Poveristi articulated their convictions by rebelling against the precepts and restrictions of the art world. Paradoxically, Marisa Merz’s art was long overshadowed by the creations of her male Arte Povera colleagues. With the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement she received at the 55th Biennale di Venezia in 2013 and a major exhibition of her oeuvre that was presented in New York and Los Angeles last year, Merz’s oeuvre is at long last receiving the international recognition it deserves.

In addition to paintings and drawings in an unmistakable style, Merz creates three-dimensional works, for which she often resorts to pliable materials such as aluminum, metal wire, copper, and wax. In 1966—at the time, she thought of her role as mother as no less important than her work on her art—her “Living Sculpture” came into being in her kitchen in Turin: sprawling colossal pipe-like aluminum constructions combining sharp metal edges with soft biomorphic contours. Around the same time, Merz also made a number of other works out of nontraditional materials, including sculptures composed of blankets she rolled up, tied up with leather straps and nylon strings, and staged in collaboration with her husband, the artist Mario Merz, in a performance at the beach in Fregene near Rome in 1970; a wood swing she made for her daughter Beatrice, which blends the formal rigor of minimalist sculpture with child’s play; and a series of knit nylon and copper wire objects that includes the iconic Scarpette (little shoes), which the artist sometimes wore.

In the 1970s, Merz combined and extended her characteristic works made of humble materials and objects—copper wire, bowls filled with saltwater, knitting needles—in complex installations. After 1975, she began work on a number of Testine or small heads, many of them roughly modeled in unfired clay. From the 1980s onward, the—almost exclusively female—heads in her drawings and paintings became emblematic of the artist’s oeuvre; her formats have grown increasingly larger since the 1990s, a trend that culminates in the most recent works on view in the exhibition, which date from the 2010s.

Merz continues to integrate individual pieces into multimedia installations of varying size and complexity. Her paintings and works of graphic art combine complex subjects with collage elements made of a variety of materials such as adhesive tape, mirrors, paper clips, bottle caps, and colored metal pigments. A characteristic example is the group of large format works on paper representing winged angels, in which striking beauty contrasts with a surprising absence of sentimentality.

Top Image: Marisa Merz, Untitled, n. D., unfired clay, thumbtacks, copper wire, gold leaf, Courtesy of the artist and Fondazione Merz, Turin, Photo: Renato Ghiazza


25 May, 2018
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Museum der Moderne Salzburg – Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
Salzburg , 5020 Austria
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