Mario Merz: Igloos
Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan
25 October 2018 - 24 February 2019
Review by Paul Black
Curated by Vicente Todolí, Pirelli HangarBicocca Milan is currently presenting the iconic Igloos of Mario Merz (1925–2003) - a key figure of Arte Povera, and considered to be one of the most important post-war Italian artists; the exhibition brings together his most iconic oeuvre of work, the igloos, which date from 1968 until the end of the artist’s life.
Vicente Todolí, in collaboration with Fondazione Merz, is presenting works gathered from a number of private collections and international museums. Merz’s igloos are displayed together for the first time - encompassing the vast space of the Pirelli HangarBicocca - the largest collection of the artist’s igloos to date.
This constellation of sculptural bodies inhabits the vast exhibition space with over 30 large-scale works in the shape of the artist’s iconic domes. These sculptural dwellings create a dialectic between interior and exterior space, placing the viewer in a curious state between the sculptural and the installation, where our celestial bodies are in orbit of one another.
The forms are an archetype of physical habitation, works are characterized by a metal structure surfaced with a variety of sculptural materials, including glass, stone, clay, steel, and often highlighted with neon— the artist’s domes are often constructed in a seemingly unstable manner, expressing the fragility and impermanence of habitation.
Merz equated these forms with basic nomadic structures, the ‘ideal organic form’ which, the artist stated that he ‘carried inside himself’. The works evolve in scale and complexity over time, a temporal journey through a narrative of an object, rising and falling in repetition - which can finally be seen in physical context.
“I reject linear, one by one, or assembly-line fabrication of spaces. I reject the idea that there can be a fixed number of people in a space,” Merz wrote in 1973.
The artist’s domes are forms reflecting a timeless need for refuge, community, and communication - as the community of forms encounter each other within the space - Merz’s igloos juxtapose a myriad of materials in an almost Beuysian fashion; electrical, chemical, and alchemical.
One of the artist’s recurring motifs is the mathematical Fibonacci sequence, which both mirrors organic patterns and is found throughout nature - in fact, Merz’s igloos resonate with both the spirals and nature. The spiral functions as an allegory for growth, forever-proliferating outward, incorporating ever more space, it is an idea that is in fact mirrored in the installation of the artist’s works - as the hemispheres orbit one another in heavenly spirals of eternal expansion