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Mario Merz. Il numero è un animale vivente

I Musei Civici di Verona – Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti and ArtVerona present

Mario Merz
11 October 2024 – 30 March 2025

curated by Patrizia Nuzzo and Stefano Raimondi

 

Collaboration between the Musei Civici di Verona – GAM and ArtVerona for the second edition of the Habitat format continues with an exhibition project hosting the works of another great artist at Palazzo della Ragione. After the success of the first edition, featuring Giulio Paolini, the collaboration between ArtVerona and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti with the Habitat format – a project within the Verona exhibition event dedicated to immersive artistic environments – is consolidated through a new edition that will host the works of another great artist in the spaces of GAM: Mario Merz.

A key figure of Arte Povera and of international renown, Mario Merz made the interpenetration between work and environment the core of his research, and the exhibition itinerary conceived by curators Patrizia Nuzzo (Head of the Collections of Modern and Contemporary Art), and Stefano Raimondi (Artistic Director of ArtVerona), with loans from the partnership with the Fondazione Merz, focuses precisely on the archetypal elements that constantly return in the artist’s production.

“The Municipality of Verona, Directorate of Civic Museums with the Achille Forti Gallery of Modern Art, is pleased to confirm its collaboration with ArtVerona,” says Marta Ugolini, Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Relations with UNESCO, “one of the most prestigious contemporary art fairs in Italy. This ongoing synergy contributes to the City’s mission of promoting and enhancing contemporary art, making it accessible not only to insiders but to all citizens. Through initiatives such as the exhibition dedicated to Mario Merz hosted in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna as part of Habitat, the aim is to valorise an artist instrumental to the renewal of contemporary art. An Italian artist of international standing, one of the main exponents of Arte Povera, Mario Merz contributed to the spread of new trends and experimentation in art. We invite everyone to visit ArtVerona and the Merz exhibition at GAM, in the belief that contemporary art has the power to surprise, inspire and unite.”

The term ‘habitat’ is declined here in its most intimate and profound meaning of living space: the hemispherical and open form of the igloo highlights the mutual invasion between work and environment, between internal and external, individual and collective dimensions. Contributing to the idea of circularity is the spiral nature of the Fibonacci numerical series, invented by the Tuscan mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202 as a progressive sequence that determines the growth processes of the natural world, in which each number is the sum of the previous two. This numerical succession traces the outline of a continuously expanding system that results in a ceaseless proliferation of forms. The element of the table, which the artist conceives of as a ‘raised piece of ground’, merges with the surrounding environment, which increasingly takes on the features of a landscape that is both foreign and familiar, distant and very close, inhabited by primary and archetypal structures that transcend the distinctions between organic and inorganic matter. The reflection on the cyclical nature of things in Mario Merz’s poetics does not only concern space but also, and above all, time. In fact, the dark and enigmatic silhouettes of prehistoric animals stand out against the white support like sudden apparitions from a distant geological era, becoming emblematic of a formal register that draws on a remote and ancestral imagery, capable of leading the viewer back to a pre-rational dimension of existence.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Manfredi Edizioni with critical contributions by the curators, Patrizia Nuzzo and Stefano Raimondi, as well as by the art historian and essayist, director of the National Museums of Perugia and the Regional Directorate of Museums of Umbria, Costantino D’Orazio. A clear historical-critical account by Milena Cordioli will retrace and document the rich exhibition history of one of the most compelling protagonists of Arte Povera. The Mario Merz project, through which the GAM reconfirms the continuity of its mission to delve into the opus of a historical artist of international relevance, constitutes a unique opportunity to admire the artist’s iconic works in an unprecedented setting that does not merely dialogue with the environment, but turns it into an imaginative space, one from which every form expands and proliferates as part of a mysterious process in perpetual transformation.

“After the appointment that brought Giulio Paolini and his work back to Verona after so many years,” says Francesca Rossi, Director of the Civic Museums of Verona, “thanks to the synergy between the Civic Museums and and ArtVerona, GAM’s participation in the Habitat format is renewed for 2024, which this year will promote an exhibition on one of the most characterising and fascinating artistic productions of Mario Merz’s experience.”

“I am particularly interested in the fact that Mario Merz’s universe is based on a conception of cyclicity that is strongly reflected in the formal character of his works,” says the curator in charge of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea’s art collection Patrizia Nuzzo, “which are posited as elements of a landscape studded with circular forms, starting with the dome of the igloo, an iconic element of his production. ‘Habitat’ is here declined in its most intimate and profound meaning of living space: the hemispherical and open shape of the igloo highlights the reciprocal invasion between work and environment, between internal and external, individual and collective dimensions, and takes us back to a primordial stage of human civilisation, in which the dichotomy between nature and culture becomes blurred.”

“The exhibition by Mario Merz arising from collaboration between ArtVerona and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna,” says Stefano Raimondi, Artistic Director of ArtVerona, “is further key evidence of the relationship and synergies that VeronaFiere and the city of Verona bring to bear during the days of the exhibition. It is an appointment that places the cultural offering of the city of Verona on a high level, while at the same time providing the opportunity to delve into the research of a key figure in contemporary art. Mario Merz has not only left his deep mark along the path of art history, but has also been a source of inspiration and study for subsequent generations of artists and curators.”

Habitat, devised by Stefano Raimondi and which over the years has investigated the research of figures such as Marina Apollonio, Gianni Colombo, Luciano Fabro, Ugo La Pietra, Marinella Pirrelli and Nanda Vigo, is part of a cultural programme that has long enriched ArtVerona’s offerings. The project aims to explore a specific research that matures in Italy with Lucio Fontana from the late 1940s and blossoms definitively in the 1960s, then developing with various original trajectories right up to the present day. These are works that must not simply be seen but experienced, environments that must be inhabited, habitats in which the work is the space itself, created and shaped by the artist. Through this study of the artistic space, the process of the visitors’ immersive participation, invited to explore the environment and for the first time to ‘enter’ a work of art, is completed.

 

 
Mario Merz was born in Milan on 1 January 1925, but together with his family (of Swiss origin), he soon moved to Turin, where in 1954 he inaugurated his first solo exhibition at Galleria La Bussola, presenting paintings with an expressionist slant. From the 1960s onwards, his research gradually began to shift away from the two-dimensionality of wall-mounted works and towards an experimental approach that incorporated organic elements into the canvas. Around 1968 he arrived at the form of the igloo, which was to become an iconic element of his work, and of which he would produce various versions over the years, using a vast quantity of materials ranging from clay to glass and neon. Starting in 1970, his attention fell on the Fibonacci numerical sequence, in which he recognised a progressive system capable of representing the growth processes of the natural world. From this moment onwards, the figures of the Fibonacci series, reproduced in neon, would be included in most of his works, hinting at a continuous and dynamic exchange between the organic and inorganic world that animates his poetics. Over the course of his long career, he exhibited his works in solo and group exhibitions at prestigious Italian and international museums such as Palazzo delle Esposizioni in San Marino (1983), Kunsthaus in Zurich (1985), Guggenheim in New York (1989), Museo Pecci in Prato (1990), Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1994), Fundaçâo de Serralves in Porto (1999) and Fundación Proa in Buenos Aires (2002). Among his most significant honours are the Laurea Honoris Causa from the DAMS in Bologna (2001) and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2003). Following his death in 2003, in addition to the projects curated by the Fondazione Merz, various exhibition initiatives have been dedicated to his work by major international institutions, including the monographic exhibition Disegni, at the Kunstmuseum in Winterthur (2007); Città Irreale, at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice (2015); Numbers are Prehistoric, at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens (2015); Igloos, with over thirty igloos hosted by the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca in Milan (2018); the extensive anthological exhibition El tiempo es mudo at the Reina Sofía in Madrid (2019), and a long-term exhibition at the Dia Art Foundation in New York (2020–2023). In 2021, the Fondazione Merz hosted a double solo exhibition entitled La punta di matita può eseguire un sorpasso di coscienza with several previously unseen works by Marisa and Mario Merz in an installation curated by Mariano Boggia, and in 2024, as part of the ZACentrale project, the Fondazione Merz presents the solo exhibition My Home’s Wind.

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