MARIO MERZ (Milan, 1925 – Turin, 2003)
The self-taught Merz came to the art world in the 1950s, as a painter, after having abandoned his study of medicine. He produced his first installations in the 1960s and by the end of the decade was an undisputed protagonist of the Arte Povera movement, concentrating his ‘practice’ on use of natural materials and research into primal energies.
He introduced to his works a great variety of materials from the natural world, of plant origin (branches, leaves, fruit, . . .), from the animal kingdom (crocodiles, iguanas, and other squamates, . . .), from everyday life (neon, umbrellas, tables, . . .) and from the realm of science (such as Fibonacci integer sequence). Merz’s early works – sculptures made with interpenetrating everyday objects – highlight, on the one hand, his ongoing interest in accumulation and dynamism; on the other, recurring themes related to nature, to physical and biological phenomena, and to space.
In 1968, Merz built his first igloo (Igloo di Giap) with which he introduced one of the distinctive features of his practice. These works investigated the symbolic potential of the housing form – primordial, common to both Eastern and Western cultures, in equipoise between expansion and concentration – transforming it into a metaphor of the relationship between nature, man and architecture.
Beginning in 1970, Merz began incorporating the numerical series introduced to Europe by the medieval Tuscan mathematician Leonardo Pisani, better known as Fibonacci, in his works. In the Fibonacci sequence, each number is the sum of the two preceding integers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 , 13 and so on); it was seen by the mathematician as an alchemical relation capable of representing the processes of growth in the natural and organic world.