Just two years after Mario Merz enrolled to study medicine, the Second World War broke out. During the conflict he was a militant in the anti-fascist group Justice and Freedom, for which he was sent to jail in 1945: it was there that he learned to draw. A year later, after his release, he made contact with the informal artists in Turin. Through them he took a decided interest in art and began to paint in 1950 under the influence of the movement. In 1968 he did his first igloo, which has been a distinguishing mark of his work ever since. As he himself has said, the igloo springs from the need to detach oneself from the wall and the picture by working on an autonomous form. In the same year, Germano Celant grouped his work and that of Jannis Kounellis, Luciano Fabro and Michelangelo Pistoleto under the name of Arte Povera. In theory, the fundamental feature of the style is the use of poor, ephemeral materials, but the term also referred to poverty as simplicity: simplicity of elements, of ideas and of forms. Mario Merz's work uses simple forms and elements such as the igloo, whilst another feature is the use of the so-called "poor materials." Merz has had a long, productive career and is one of the key figures of twentieth century art.
David G. Torres