25 October 2013

Marisa Merz at the Serpentine Gallery

It's a shame to waste good weather - what better than a little expedition to the Serpentine Gallery, which is in the middle of a nice park, and in its four rooms usually has an exhibition big enough to satisfy or small enough to hurry through, depending on whether the work appeals to you or not.
Since the 1970s Merz has shown her work only in a particular way (via)
The work of Marisa Merz was a surprise. Born in 1926, she was a member - the only female member - of the Arte Povera ('poor art') group, whose exhibitions took place around Italy in the late 60s and early 70s. These artists, using the detritus of the industrial age, really brought "unconventional" materials into mainstream art.
These two are now in the Tate's collection
The exhibition has several pieces made of, or including, knitted copper wire - and some smaller pieces which incorporate steel knitting needles or longer rods and the (circular) knitting looks like it's still in progress. Some slippers made of nylon cord are tacked up in a corner, and she's also done flat pourings of wax on which other objects lie, as if on a tablecloth. 
One room in the Serpentine show, with clay heads on wax and on plinths
I was less excited by the drawings and paintings, which hover between abstraction and figuration. Some were made very recently. Five decades of making art is quite an achievement in itself, with work exhibited here, there, and everywhere.

Merz wasn't given to thinking of titles for her works, but this one is known as "Living Sculpture" -
The photo shows it as seen in the Tate; in the Serpentine too it was hanging in a corner, with some of the tubes almost reaching the floor and the "knotty bits" up near the ceiling. It was first shown in her home in Turin in 1966 - it's made of strips of aluminium foil. She is quoted as saying 'There has never been any division between my life and my work'.

The show is on till 10 November - see serpentinegalleries.org. An illustrated review of her exhibition at Fondazione Merz (set up to show the work of her late husband, Mario Merz, in 2005) is here.

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