Marisa Merz, the Only Woman Accepted Into the Arte Povera Group, Gets Her Due Next Year

The first US retrospective of Marisa Merz will travel from coast to coast.

Marisa Merz, Untitled, (1993-1996). Courtesy the artist and Fondazione Merz. Photo: Renato Ghiazza.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles have announced a jointly-organized retrospective of Italian Arte Povera artist Marisa Merz, looking back at the artist’s half-century career.

“The Sky is a Great Space” positions Merz as the “sole female protagonist of the Arte Povera movement,” and will first be on view at the Met Breuer from January 24 to May 7, 2017, and then at the Hammer from June 4 to August 20. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue were created in collaboration with the Fondazione Merz in Turin, a center dedicated to contemporary art and the work of Mario and Marisa Merz.

Marisa Merz, Untitled, (1968 or 1975). Courtesy the artist and Fondazione Merz. Photo: Renato Ghiazza.

Marisa Merz, Untitled, (1968 or 1975). Courtesy the artist and Fondazione Merz. Photo: Renato Ghiazza.

Curated by Connie Butler, Chief Curator of the Hammer Museum, and Ian Alteever, Associate Curator of the Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the exhibition comes three years after the Turin-born artist won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

Known for her sculptures, paintings, and installations, since the 1960s Merz has worked with everyday materials such as clay, wire, and fabric, fashioning strange objects using traditionally “feminine” craft techniques. In the 1960s and ’70s, her work was in line with the radical anti-industrial ethos of the Arte Povera movement, and indeed, the group, which comprised almost entirely male artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, Giuseppe Penone, and Marisa’s husband, Mario Merz, embraced her as its only affiliated female artist.

Marisa Merz, Living Sculpture (1966). Photo courtesy Art Institute Chicago; Acquisition purchased through prior gifts of Adeline Yates and Fowler McCormick; Wilson L. Mead fund.

Marisa Merz, Living Sculpture (1966). Photo courtesy Art Institute Chicago; Acquisition purchased through prior gifts of Adeline Yates and Fowler McCormick; Wilson L. Mead fund.

The upcoming retrospective will trace Merz’s oeuvre from her early work with hanging sheet metal Living Sculptures or functional objects like a plywood swing for her daughter, to her later figurative clay sculptures, and her most recent multimedia installations, besides her delicate works on paper in graphite, wax, ballpoint pen, and pastel.

All will come together to recognize the Merz’s long career, both as a member of a historic movement, as and an artist whose prolific output can stand strong on its own.


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