“O Céu é um Grande Espaço” in Serralves. Exhibition of Arte Povera of Marisa Merz

Don’t miss the chance of going to Serralves to get marvelled by the avant-garde efforts of the Italian artist Marisa Merz (n.1926, Turin), the first presentation of the itinerant retrospective that has been taking place in Europe, whose next stop is the Museum of Modern Art in Salzburg, Austria.

According to the curator, this museum, whose design was conceived by the architect Siza Vieira, has the proper architecture to welcome this exhibition. There is a beautiful setting, entangled in an absolute simplicity which creates an almost perfect match between the building and its pieces.

Marisa Merz has achieved international recognition due to her talent and as a member of the circle of artists associated with the movement Arte Povera (poor art, translated) at the end of the 60s, as a reaction to the artistic currents of American pop and minimalism. It is the only female figure of the Group of that historic period, thus breaking the conventions established as much as possible.

She mainly relies on non-traditional materials, without abiding by any rule or booklet, stepping outside the canons of her time, rejecting their richness, hence attributing more value to delicate materials, more fragile in terms of consistency, deprived of wealth, giving much more importance to valueless materials.

This exhibition gathered a set of works in painting, sculpture and installation, covering almost half a century dedicated to work (1966-2016), with records marked by a deeply personal language. Her installations are characterized by reconciling intimacy with pieces of a strong and powerful scale, to the point where they almost scared her daughter when she was a child.

Among her immense body of work, the sculpture Living Sculpture of 1966 deserves to be emphasized, one of the oldest and most emblematic, formed by a tangle of modelled aluminium, suspended from the ceiling, and expanding the concept of mobile in itself, in an accurate combination under a formal context, between the sharp metal edges and rough and smooth contours.

At the end of the 70s, she did a singular series, popularized by small heads made from uncooked clay, jaggedly painted, materialized in the kitchen of her Turin’s house, which she transformed into a studio, where her main motto is still a dialog between art and life.

The use of the technique of knitted wire items must also me emphasized, like the shoes conceived with nylon fibre, which were used by the artist herself. There is also the creation of a swing in plywood for her daughter, combining the constructivist geometric strictness of sculpture with its functionality.

The tri-dimensionality became more intensely present in the last productive years of her artistic endeavour. The human figuration, particularly women-related, began to be increasingly present, either in drawings records or sculptures.

Intersection between art and life, so crucial in contemporary practice

The artist, with a stimulating career, said that there were no barriers dividing her work and her life, and this aspect reveals itself in her installations, making the most out of materials that she had at home for inspiration, a permanent reference to her daily routine.

Merz therefore positions herself in the “Intersection between art and life, so crucial in contemporary practice”, as Connie Butler sums up, of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, one of the two curators of the exhibition, in partnership with Ian Alteveer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Her body work is evocative, challenging and original, addressing the response to her own experience and the field of history of art, given the extensive influence of her work; playing with the contemporary atmosphere of Turin and post-war Italy.

To sum it up, João Ribas (current director of the Serralves Museum) adds that “sometimes, the oldest generations are the place where we found the true avant-garde”.

Manuela Synek has collaborated with Umbigo magazine for over ten years. As the years go by, it identifies itself more and more with this consistent, ever-changing, innovative, bold and consistent design in its editorial line. She is a Historian and Art Critic graduated by the Superior Institute of Artistic Careers of Paris in Critique of Art and Aesthetics. She is also graduated in Aesthetics from the University of Paris I - Panthéon – Sorbonne and has the "Postgraduate Course in History of Art, Contemporary Art Strand", by Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Manuela is the author of books on authors in the area of Plastic Arts and has participated in Colloquiums as Lecturer related to Artistic Heritage; Painting; Sculpture and Design in Universities; Higher Schools and Autarchies. Lately she specialized in the subject of Public Art and Urban Space, with the analysis of the artistic works where she has made Communications. She writes for Umbigo magazine about the work of artists in the area of the visual arts who appear in the field of exhibitions and also the dissemination of emerging Portuguese values with new supports since installation, photography and video, where the body appears in its various aspects, raising pertinent issues.

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