The igloo is Mario Merz’s trademark. But it is not simply a formal device that immediately identifies his works; with it he proposes a dialectic movement that marks out his true intentions. Above and beyond the “poor” elements, the igloo is an elemental form: a hemisphere that constructs an absolute space with no angles. In its simplicity it has a mystical quality, but also a mythic and intensely metaphorical one, first because of its primitive appearance, which expresses a fundamental concern of the human race: the need for shelter, for a refuge. The igloo also marks out an inhabitable area, a minimum of inhabitability. Nevertheless, it is impossible to forget the poor elements that structure this simple, primitive shelter; the precariousness with which it is constructed cannot be overlooked. Perhaps because Merz’s intention is not so much to build a space as to mark one out, to draw boundaries which nevertheless remain diffuse. In other words, the igloo is a simple form built with poverty, it is an enclosed as much as an open space, it is opaque but also transparent; it proposes a dialectic between interior and exterior space. This igloo poses a relation between interior and exterior space: because of the semi-transparency or precariousness with which it is built, but, more evidently, because it is pierced by a straight row of newspapers piled up in bundles fourteen metres long. Once again a poor material—news print—whose ephemeral character stands out or is emphasised: all the newspapers are from the same day, they are out of date, they have been cast aside, they have never been bought or read; they are destined for recycling and the artist recycles them as a metaphorical element. And once again dialectically clashing, contradicting or contrasting with the poor materiality of the newspapers, neon lights: a technological device alongside the poverty, the primitive, elemental nature of the igloo and the natural, ephemeral objects. That line of neons reproduces another of the characteristic elements of Merz’s work since 1971: the Fibonacci sequence. Each number in it is obtained from the sum of the two preceding ones (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8...). In accordance with the dialectical seesaw he is proposing, the neons reproduce a progression that explains vegetable, biological and human growth: one nose, two ears, five fingers. A progression that chimes with growth passes through a hemispherical shelter with clear reminiscences of the idea of motherhood. The simplicity of the Fibonacci sequence and the mythical reference to the motherhood of the igloo provide the bases for a work founded on minimal, basic, primitive, mythical elements which the artist mixes and multiplies as a representation of a fluid, dynamic world. Harald Szeemann has said that Mario Merz belongs to the last generation of solitary, visionary artists. In that sense his work appears as an organic creation, an attempt to gather the mobile, dialectical relations that organise the world: the tension between poverty and technology, continuity and discontinuity, open and closed, vertical and horizontal, autonomy and metaphor.
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