In 1967, art historian Germano Celant introduced the term Art Povera in order to describe a particular art phenomenon which spread quickly across Italy and was a critical reaction based on the new perception of the role and meaning of art in society. Looking from a contemporary perspective, it was a local reply to the global demands of young people to change the society which burst a year later with the student's protests. A number of artists grew in the movement, and the radicalism of their practices did not fade throughout the years. A really good example of this conclusion is the work of Mario Merz, who was one of the pioneers of installation art.
This prolific figure has been present on the international scene for fifty years and is best known for his igloos. Therefore, the Pirelli HangarBicocca decided to release an extensive exhibition focused on this motif present in Merz’s practice since 1968 until his death in 2003.
The artistic practice of Mario Merz is inseparable from the Art Povera movement to which he belonged. This artist was one of the pioneers of installation art especially because of his use of neon. For more than four decades, Merz was exploring the transformational process of natural life by appropriating scientific such as the spiral, the Fibonacci sequence, and, from 1968, the igloo, as an object reminiscent of the Buckminster Fuller’s dome.
For the artist, these specific housing units represent apparently the archetype of inhabited places and a metaphor for the various relationships between interior and exterior, physical and conceptual space, individuality and collectivity. Mario Merz's Igloos are usually metallic structures coated with clay, glass, stone, and steel, often covered with neon elements and text.
For this particular occasion, works made during previous decades are gathered, with a focus on the ones which were featured on Mario Merz’s retrospectives around the world. The installation La Goccia d’Acqua from 1987, opens the exhibition; it is an igloo twelve meters in diameter, the largest one the artist ever produced for an internal exhibition space.
The installment is then developing in chronological order – from the first igloos made during the 1960s and the 1970s ones, to the more complex igloos made during 1980s. The piece from the ninth decade of the 20th century is titled Senza titolo, and was produced in the museum park on the occasion of the solo show at the Fundação de Serralves.
This exciting exhibition is curated by Vicente Todolí, artistic Director of Pirelli HangarBicocca, and it tends to explore on the most recurring motifs in Merz’s practice and to reveal its significance in broader historical context; to underline symbolical potential of the text used in works as well as the dialog with the surrounding space and architecture.
An accompanying illustrative catalog will be published by Mousse Publishing, and it will include essays by Germano Celant, Lisa Le Feuvre, and Pietro Rigolo, as well as detailed descriptions about all the works which will be on display.
Mario Merz: Igloos will be on display at HangarBicocca in Milan from 24 October 2018 until 24 February 2019.
Featured images: Mario Merz - Senza titolo, 1999. Installation view, Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2010. Courtesy Fondazione Merz, Turin. Photo: © Paolo Pellion; Spostamenti della terra e della luna su un asse, 2003. Installation view, Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2011. Courtesy Fondazione Merz, Turin. Photo: © Paolo Pellion; Igloo di Giap, 1968. Installation view, Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2018. Courtesy Fondazione Merz, Turin. Photo: Renato Ghiazza; Is space bent or straight?, 1973. Installation view, Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2018. Courtesy Fondazione Merz, Turin. Photo: Renato Ghiazza. All images courtesy HangarBicocca Milan.