From 12 January 2005 to 27 March 2005
Curators: Pier Giovanni Castagnoli, Ida Gianelli, Beatrice Merz
“Although the form disappears, its root is eternal”. The complex vision of Mario Merz, based on the ideal dynamic continuity of the cosmos, of living beings and of the processes of transformation of nature finds expression in this line by the mystical poet, Rumi. A poetic and cognitive investigation, the search for the principles governing the organic universe is articulated through works representing the progressive discoveries made by the artist within the secrets of the sensible world.
The exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli offers some of the most significant moments in the artist’s development since 1968, the year Merz blended the present and a prehistoric past and began to use the form of the igloo. Both a house and an archaic metaphor for the cosmos, the igloo belongs to nomad culture, and in line with this principle, this is the form that accompanies the artist’s progress.
Made of clay, metal, glass, asphalt, jute or bundles of small branches, Merz’s igloo finds materials and proportions in organic relation with the places, and becomes double or triple, alternating conditions of opening and closing, transparency and opacity. A meeting place for the first examples made during the years of the Vietnam war and of the student revolts, the cupola has been used to reveal mottos and phrases from anecdotes, or to confirm the search for philosophical principals, as in the case of the phrase by General Giap: “if the enemy concentrates, he loses terrain; if he spreads out, he loses strength”.
A real and symbolic form, the igloo in three-dimensional space represents the dynamism of the spiral, a sign of the cosmic movement governing the artist’s iconography. In a mathematical context, this corresponds to the Fibonacci series, the sequence of numbers discovered by abbot Leonardo da Pisa at the start of the 13th century, by which each number corresponds to the sum of the two preceding ones (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…). Merz uses the Fibonacci numbers as a datum describing the laws of nature through the truth of numbers, recognising a system in the sequence able to depict the growth of an object in space. With the Fibonacci series, the artist inserts his own works in the continuous cycle of transformation governing the physical universe, projecting it towards infinity. Such is the case for Accelerazione = sogno, numeri di Fibonacci al neon e motocicletta fantasma , 1972, the motorcycle exhibited at Documenta in Kassel, a hybrid technological animal launched into a virtual race, or for the space outside the Manica Lunga at Rivoli, animated by the procession of neon numbers (1990).
The relationship between space, persons and objects is investigated by Merz through the theme of tables, considered the first step in the construction of a possible “Fibonacci House”. A place for social exchange, the table is present both as a physical structure and as pictorial image, a practice the artist rediscovered at the start of the 1970s with this theme. Collecting vegetables, fruit, bundles of newspapers in Tavolo a spirale in tubolare di ferro per festino di giornali datati il giorno del festino, 1976, the work becomes that which the artist defines a real “modern landscape”.
In the all-encompassing vision of Merz, the paintings of animals became numerous during the 1980s. To these, the artist added the dignity of being creatures belonging to myth. The bestiary includes crocodiles, lizards, iguanas, rhinoceroses, lions, tigers, bisons and some nocturnal animals, such as geckos and owls, as for Merz animals are the “night of humanity”, more ancient than we are. At times, these animals are animated by neon lights, luminous lances that impress a further velocity upon the picture.
The particular feeling for time, free of the logic of linear succession, that guides Merz’s thinking, is evident in the artist’s ability to touch on all the themes identified during his research at the same time. Every new work can receive and co-penetrate with another made beforehand, originating new proliferations of meaning. In Senza titolo (Tavolo per Marisa), 2003, the lance, a vector already employed in the early days of Arte Povera, enters into the dynamics of the panel, impressing the value of an infinite dimension upon the dedication contained in the work.