Mario Merz (Italian, 1925-2003) Untitled 1982

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Lot 17* AR
Mario Merz
(Italian, 1925-2003)
Untitled
1982

Sold for £ 50,000 (US$ 66,380) inc. premium
Mario Merz (Italian, 1925-2003)
Untitled
1982

acrylic, charcoal, ink, bondo and shell on gauze laid on cardboard

126 by 127 cm.
49 5/8 by 50 in.

This work was executed in 1982.

Footnotes

  • This work is registered in the Archivio Merz, Turin, under no. 2169/1982/TL.

    Provenance
    Sperone Westwater Fischer Inc, New York (no. SWF83.115)
    Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner circa 1983
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    Exhibited
    New York, Sperone Westwater Fischer, Merz, Nauman, Singer, Venezia, 1983



    If any Twentieth Century artist came close to capturing the almost mystical beauty and terrible power inherent in the natural world, it was Mario Merz. A major figure in the Italian avant-garde movement known as Arte Povera, Merz's work is often created from humble materials, challenging the most basic ideas of what can or should constitute great art. Large and imposing, and yet subtle and deftly handled, Untitled of 1982 is an example of the artist at his most perceptive, and most penetrating. But like nature itself, this elusive work remains strangely hard to pin down, refusing to be defined by borders or boundaries. In its attempt to represent the infinite, Mario Merz's Untitled, 1982 pushes human comprehension to its very limits.

    In the present work we find a number of Merz's key motifs, most notably the transformation of everyday materials such as cardboard and gauze, the symbol of the spiral, and an interest in organic elements, in this case the shell of a snail which sits at the centre of this large composition. Always fiercely political, Merz's earliest works were created in prison following his arrest for distributing anti-Fascist literature in 1945; made using only a pencil and scraps of paper, these first drawings represented the beard of a fellow inmate in a series of never-ending spirals. It was perhaps inevitable that Merz would later become involved in Arte Povera, a movement named by Italian critic and curator Germano Celant which aimed to deconstruct traditional concepts of artistic practice and materiality. By the mid-1960s Merz was creating paintings featuring objets trouvés, and by the following decade he had become fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical series in which each number is created from the sum of the previous two (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21...), a concept which he began to represent with the symbol of a spiral. The present work, created at a time when the artist had become particularly focused on images of animals, pulls together these various elements into an astounding conclusion.

    The core of Untitled, 1982 is that small, unassuming snail shell. Simple, perfect, this tiny piece of natural engineering is intriguing in itself. In the hands of Merz, however, it is expanded, pulled out and elaborated into a huge, ever expanding whirlwind of rich, earthy tones, a massive spiral of radiant yellow, shadowy black and misty pink interspersed with dashes of pure white. The shell merges with the acrylic, charcoal and ink, growing (just like the Fibonacci sequence) ever larger, twisting into the infinite. Where it will end is not clear, the image spinning into the realms of eternity. Typical of Merz's best works, this is an art object which presents profound questions, but never seeks to propose answers, forcing us to explore the ultimately unexplainable wonders of nature.
Contacts
Mario Merz (Italian, 1925-2003) Untitled 1982
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