The only female exponent of the Arte Povera group, Marisa Merz made her debut in the 1960s with a series of works entitled Living Sculpture. These took the form of large-scale sculptural installations in aluminium foil suspended in space and subject to the mutations of chance and of the material itself, which fitted in well with the poetics of movement linked to art as process, as the visualisation and materialisation of energy.  Later she devoted himself to a more lyrical and intimate research with the creation of small raw clay “heads”, wax forms, cloths woven with copper or knitted nylon threads, introducing materials and techniques typical of craftsmanship and often associated with the domestic and female sphere, such as sewing, into the language of contemporary sculpture. From the 1980s onwards, Marisa Merz’s “soul continuously striving to give form to thought” combined sculpture with drawing and painting, the constant subject of which – as in the clay heads – are evanescent faces that emerge from the stratification of lines and signs, incorporeal and indeterminate presences to which the critic Tommaso Trini associates the definition of “prefigures”. In a more recent reworking of this theme, the figures appear among broad brushstrokes of bright colours in variations of gold, blue and red, similar to Byzantine icons; angelic and at the same time hermetic.

Marisa Merz (Turin, 1926 - 2019). Over the course of her career, her work has been exhibited in numerous prestigious institutions including: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA (2019); Serralves Museum, Porto, Portugal, (2018); the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria, (2018); Metropolitan Breuer, New York, USA (2017); The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA, (2017); Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (2013); Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, (2011); Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2003 and 1995). In 1982 she participated in Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. She was awarded the Venice Biennale Special Prize in 2001, and in 2013 received the Golden Lion at the 55th Venice Biennale.


Photo © Dietmar Schneider