Marisa Merz

Marisa Merz envisions her work as an organic whole, without separate titles and dates for individual pieces. Everything is articulated in the present, in this present in which she has reorganized the space and time of the appearance of every single work. Thus, she bridges the distance between the moment of creation and that of exhibition, a distance that she has always marked. This was a far cry from a traditional retrospective; it was instead a global view where each piece seemed contemporaneous with the others.

At the entrance was an extraordinary duet: on a thin tripod, a clay sculpture acted as a countermelody to the perfect, geometric harmony of the copper-wire mesh attached to the wall. Elsewhere, like a chorus, some paintings floated at different heights on the walls; the color had a thick but well-defined weave, from which images of a face “slid” away, like traces of an unexpected apparition. This sensation was further accentuated in a large painting resting on the floor, without a frame, protected only by a tilted sheet of glass. On a base of copper sheets rose two low, wax parallelepipeds, which, as in a small monument, supported a sculpture (also wax) of a violin. It was a silent violin, but the materials became a symbol of music: copper as a conductor of sonorous exchanges, wax as a sign of the plasticity to which each note responds, as if to say the work of art involves all our senses.

It is not important to establish where and when her works have appeared; what matters is entering into harmony, complying with their movements, accompanying their visual coordinates. This is what distinguished the dripping of a spring that came from a fountain of wax that was lying on the floor in a shadowy area. This simple, perpetual gushing assumes the sonority of a cry. It makes us understand the basic principle of Merz’s poetics: the spontaneous value of creation, its constant flow beyond the limits of conventions.

This emphasis on the creative moment was also evident in her magnificent drawings in pencil on canvas. A face, almost always the same, but never identical, emerges from a confusion of lines. These were small portraits (perhaps self-portraits?), distributed throughout the show, but in one room they were very concentrated, sometimes crammed close together, sometimes spread out along the wall. The surfaces of these faces are small, but the space that engenders them is limitless, rendering the vastness of the present perceptible. The pencil marks, once on the canvas, leave a trace; they can never be truly erased. They can become dense or dispersed, but each bears witness to a passage of time. It seemed that even air and light had condensed into a line, a point, a mark. In this palpable atmosphere, Merz designated the mysterious movement of resemblance, through which we give a face to ourselves, to the Other, to things. It is a movement that pervaded every single portrait and spreads out to those nearby, letting us to witness the perennial state of birth that lies at the origins of life and of art.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.