L’IMPERMEABILE LUMINOSO by Mario Merz (1968)
Mario Merz was born in Milan on January 1st 1925 from a family of Swiss origin and grows up in Turin. During the war he leaves the Faculty of Medicine and joins the antifascist movement “Justice and Freedom”. In 1945, imprisoned for a year in the “Carceri Nuove” in Turin, he carries out some drawings, testing a continuous graphic stroke, without moving the pencil away from the paper.
In 1954 he holds his first exhibition in the Gallery “La Bussola” in Turin. Merz takes part in collective performances in Italy and abroad, including the Promotive Society of Fine Arts in Turin. By the middle of the 60s, because of his desire to work on the energy transmission from organic to inorganic, he realizes works where neon pierces everyday objects (such as an umbrella, a glass, a bottle, his own raincoat). In Turin he meets the German critic Celant who coins the word “Arte Povera” and includes Merz among the exponents of the new language. He starts attending the first exhibitions of the group.
Around 1968 there is the definitive release from the two-dimensional plane of the wall thanks to the adoption of the igloo shape. The first igloos are shown at the “Deposito d’Arte Presente” in Turin.
During the years he produces each example using various materials and generating new relationships with the different contexts.
From 1970 Merz begins using Fibonacci’s numerical series, able to represent the process of growth in the organic world. In 1973 he stays in Berlin for a year, guest at the Berliner Künstlerprogramm, where he directs his research towards the tables as unifying elements, fundamental for the construction of a possible “Casa Fibonacci”. The main collectives include Kunsthalle, Bern (1969), Tokyo Biennale (1970), Kunstmuseum, Lucerne (1970), Documenta 5, Kassel (1972), Venice Biennale (1972). He holds the first exhibition in the USA at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1972).
From the second half of the 70s Merz works out a renewed pictorial experience and elaborates a series of works where the igloo, the fascines, the neon numbers, the tables and the vegetables include some parcels of newspapers. The first exhibition in a European museum is at the Kunsthalle, Basel, followed by the one at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1975). He takes part in the Venice Biennale (1976 and 1978).
During the 80s his pictorial repertoire is enriched by images of primitive, “terrible” and nocturnal animals. Many important retrospectives in international museums follow one another, such as Museum Folkwang, Essen, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum Eindhoven (1979) Whitechapel, London (1980), ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris (1981), Kunsthalle, Basel (1981), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Palazzo dei Congressi, San Marino (1983), Kunsthaus, Zurich (1985) and he also participates to collectives such as Sidney Biennale (1979), Documenta 7 (1982), Venice Biennale (1986). Among his awards there is the prize “Arnold Bode”, Kassel (1981) and “Oskar Kokoschka”, Vienna (1983). The international awards are at the Guggenheim Museum, New York (1989), at the Rivoli Castle Museum of Contemporary Art, at the Luigi Pecci Center, Prato (1990) and at the Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art, Trento (1995).
In the meantime he receives many invitations to perform in public spaces, as the underground of Berlin, the railway station of Zurich, the tramline of Strasbourg. Other important meetings are Documenta IX Kassel (1992) and Venice Biennale (1997). In new personal shows he expands on the topic of “Casa Fibonacci”, for example in the exposition at the Fundação Serralves, Porto (1999). The practice of drawing becomes the protagonist in a series of big installations. Merz exposes at the Carré d’Art Musèe d’Art contemporain, Nimes (2000) and at the Fundatión Proa, Buenos Aires (2002) for the first time in Latin America. He takes part in Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera (2001), the first anthology on Arte Povera in the U.K., organized by the Tate Modern of London and by the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis. On 6 November 2002 the first permanent installation Igloo
Fountain is opened for the “Passante Ferroviario” of Turin.
Among the several awards he also reveives the Honorary Degree given by the DAMS of Bologna (2001) and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2003).