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Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space

The Sky is a Great Space is a poetic love letter to Marisa Merz. On view at The Met Breuer, this exhibition marks her first major retrospective in the United States. Known for her Living Sculptures, Merz is part of the Italian art movement arte povera, in which she was the only female member. While the exhibition points this out, it does not dwell on it, emphasizing Merz’s oeuvre as an artist. The philosophical title of the exhibition goes in tandem with the overall theme; the lines between Merz’s art and her life are continuously blurred, creating such a strong connection between the two that her career and life can be seen as one fluid motion over the years. The exhibition is loosely organized by time period; each room houses like works. The first thing the viewer sees upon entrance are the monumental Living Sculptures.

Their biomorphic qualities and undulating surfaces change with every slight shift in light or air flow. From there, her different periods of work are displayed. The testa (clay heads) are an interesting bridge between her abstract, geometric sculptures and drawings, and her figurative and religious paintings and drawings. The testa are rough and raw, but endearing at the same time.

Marisa Merz, Untitled, 1990-2003, Unfired clay, steel, paraffin, golf leaf, metallic paint, pastel, paint,

adhesive tape, wax

Untitled, 2010, Mixed media on paper mounted on wood, iron and copper frame,

beams, wax

In, “Untitled,” 1990-2003, we see a graveyard of small heads on a large wax floor piece. Do they belong to humans, aliens, or both? It’s hard to tell, but the way they are displayed on the ground brings to mind a burial. In another exceptional work, “Untitled,” 2010 , Merz creates a large scale altar piece, with mixed media on paper, and wooden boards. An abstracted figure with nods to traditional Italian religious imagery is surrounded by large swaths of muted silvers and golds. This piece is grand in size and stature, while paying homage to her Italian roots. It is displayed across the room from the testa graveyard, proposing interesting musings on life, death, and what comes after.

Marisa Merz, Atalena (Swing), 1968, Wood, metal anchors

Marisa Merz, Untitled, Mixed media

Marisa Merz, Untitled, Mixed media

Merz’s work is truly interdisciplinary. The interweaving of background information and art is impeccable, providing pointed insight for viewers from all walks of life. Some of Merz’s work was displayed in her home; she continuously rotated the art on view. “Atalena (Swing),” 1968 a large, geometric wooden swing was created for her daughter to use. Also displayed are her drawings and collages that were hung on the walls of her home.

They are expressive, mixed media works depicting faces, varying in shape, size, texture and color. They serve as a further example of the interconnectedness of her life and art. While Merz’s work has changed over the years, there is a certain element that interlinks it all; The Sky is a Great Space brings out these subtle similarities and iterations. From her interest in abstraction to figuration to metalwork to religious imagery, it all seems to go full circle. Marisa Merz has had an influential career so far, and this exhibition is well worth a visit.

The Sky is a Great Space, installation view

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