“Marisa Merz, The sky is a great space” is the title of the first major retrospective in the United States of the Italian painter, sculptor, and installation artist Marisa Merz – born Turin in 1926 -, a protagonist of the Arte Povera movement. This avant-garde movement came forward in the 1960s embracing “poor” materials — tree branches, used clothes, dirt, ropes, rocks, industrial detritus — to reject Italy’s postwar material wealth and the sterility of consumer culture, to negate the existing codes and art world limitations and to respond to American Pop and minimalism.
Her early work begun as an elaboration of her domesticity, with soft yet sharp-edged tangles of metal sheets that first hung from the ceiling of her kitchen in the mid-1960s, and the group of delicate but powerful objects made from nontraditional materials such as copper wire and knitting needles. In the mid-1970s, Merz began sculpting a series of small heads – Teste -, which have become emblematic of the artist and her more recent work. Today, Merz is still at work, in her home town of Turin, at ninety-one.
The exhibition – curated by Connie Butler, Chief Curator from Hammer Museum, and Ian Alteveer, Curator from the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art – on show at the Met Breur, in New York, until May, 24th, showcases five decades of Merz’s work to explore her talent and influence. It features her early experiments with nontraditional art materials and processes, her mid-career installations that balance intimacy with impressive scale, and the portrait heads she created after the mid-1970s.
Ilona Catani Scarlett