Mario Merz

Au fond de la cour à droite

In a small village in Burgundy a Mario Merz show looks no less important than in New York, but it certainly looks different. Merz has always pushed the constructions of his mind to respond emotively to their surround. One would be tempted to consider this show an Impressionist moment in his art if Merz hadn’t long ago protected his work against this kind of journalistic argument. A Burgundian fall, a trip in the country, a journey by paths and fields, a sunny walk over a river, a colorful fruit market before a church—if these are privileged images for the Impressionist painter, for Merz they simply disclose the specific nature of a place, providing the means for him to make his offering to the world and to express his way of being in it, his reality.

The larger room of this art-association gallery was entirely occupied by a major work. A horizontal structure made of iron tubes grows in irregular curves and ellipses, changing levels, expanding itself in space, recollecting itself in time and place. Its form entropically reflects all kinds of movements; its trajectories are both abstract lines, leading elsewhere, and the organic flanks that contain living matter. This structure is supported by vertical iron tubes which are extensible in length like a telescope. Their evident ability to elongate suggests a potential movement perpendicular to the curving horizontal form, which becomes a floating, suspended space instead of a fixed surface. These vertical elements function like table legs but they seem capable of movement, like the legs of an animal, or the antennae of an insect; the body they support is not solid, and they don't so much stand on the ground as relate to it like stems. If optically Merz’s construction broadens out, grows along. Mentally it also grows vertically, like a flower that both spreads petals and stretches up stamens.

Forming the shores between the liquid and the solid aspects of space, flat pieces of glass and stone rest on the polycentric, multifaceted iron form, the glass offering privileged moments of transparency and reflection which again transform the work’s horizontal spatial movement, this time into an oblique plunge in time and space. Onions, cucumbers, eggplants, cabbages, celery sticks, pumpkins, squashes, gourds, apples, pears, heads of garlic, lemons, radishes, cauliflowers, salsify roots, red cabbages, turnips, and beets are carefully arranged on these glass and stone shelves, developing the curves and circular elements of the whole into a multitude of chromatic moments. These colors and light reflections echo the tonalities of paintings of Merz’s that hang on the walls of the room and organically embody the qualities that relate the piece to the world.

The world does not simply offer itself to be seized phenomenologically but alters the eye that perceives it, alters one’s own presence. In order to exist and to make what is in it exist. Similarly, if Merz’s work is self-reflecting it is not as a closed circuit but as an open structure that calls for an event. Fruits and vegetables will decay, others will grow. The iron structure may be filled and emptied. a succession of people may make it live. The work exists within the world and with people. and it constantly demands a part of the world, the actions of people. For it is an event and must provoke events. This is why it looks as significant in Chagny as it might in New York; an event is important anywhere. The event creates the place and the place creates history, not the other way around.

Denys Zacharopoulos