New York

Mario Merz

John Weber Gallery

The light at the end of the tunnel in this “Odyssean” search for an almost lost presence and place of esthetic, intellectual, and emotional value was Mario Merz’ show that the artist has again based on the Fibonacci series.

Many, on seeing this show, were blind to or amused at the simplicity and clarity of such a presentation of Fibonacci’s mysterious discovery and Merz’ fiducial romance with it. I was visually comforted, mentally seduced, and emotionally informed by Merz’ presentation.

Merz did a series of drawings and the actual tables from the drawings that would accommodate a certain number of people in numbers extrapolated from the Fibonacci series. One table for one person, another for another person, another for two, another for three, another for five, and so on to 88. But why 88 and not 89 as the series requires? Here the mystery, tension, and wonderment began.

Merz’ modification of the series brought to light the fact that he does not merely translate the series, but counters it and changes it to suit his own secret system.

One found that on careful examination the tables were set in a spiral formation so that our walking around them in order would produce a spiral path that is similar to the one that the series generates in nature.

Mario is no mere Conceptualist. His work is not dependent on a detailed exegesis, though certainly one can be posited. All that might be needed is provided unobtrusively, soberly, and beautifully. How one can be sober when one’s adopted artistic gesture is one of nature’s most powerful gestures (the order, path, and series to infinite growth and speed) is Merz’ secret.

There is a just balance in his use of visual cues, which owing to his understatement, leads us to seek information and consequently to an inquiry into his semisecretive pathos.

Objecthood, conception and passion are fine; and accordingly remain fine and slender threads from which to anchor art, when separately employed. A much more strongly and efficiently moored “vessel” would result from the braiding of at least these three aspects.

The work was complete therefore, when we invested (clothed, surrounded ourselves with) and investigated (searched into) it. To investigate physically (as the Latin root for investigate suggests—in-vestigare: to track, from vestigium; a track, a foot-track) is something that many viewers at the gallery did not do. They walked into the gallery (not into the piece) and walked out.

Merz’ use of tables within the columned gallery becomes an almost symbolic means of telling us that this is a place and a situation for a feast; a place of feeding. The meat of this matter was our own coparticipation in and investigation of the offerings. Were more artists to consider these aspects of a work simultaneously, they would save us and themselves a lot of time and fruitless effort in searching for what is not there. As artists we must search more deeply into our own whys and wherefores before we ask anyone else to.

José Matos