Italian sculptress and mixed media artist.
Before dedicating herself entirely to graphic arts, Marisa Merz studied architecture, during which time she met her husband, Mario Merz, a major artist of the Italian art scene of the second half of the 20th century. She began showing her work in 1967 in Turin, birthplace of Fiat and of the protest movement Arte Povera (“poor art”). The movement, which brought together a group of Italian artists as from the late 60s, used “poor” materials, often taken from everyday life, as art objects. In 1968 Marisa Merz, her husband, Jannis Kounellis and Michelangelo Pistoletto, among others, participated in the event Arte povera + Azioni povere (“poor art + poor actions”). On this occasion, she made braided copper and nylon thread pieces shaped like small children’s shoes (Scarpette di Bea) or in the likeness of her daughter Beatrice and left them on the beach in Amalfi. Since her beginnings, metal was always her material of choice in her figurative and abstract work alike. This material was typical of Arte povera artists but also of the New York disciples of Minimal Art – a movement she distinguished herself from in the way she worked materials and created new shapes, delicately assembling aluminium sheets, weaving inextricable nylon and copper webs, subjecting these industrial materials to the patient labour of sewing traditionally attributed to women, making them light, airy, and insubstantial like cobwebs (Untitled, 1979), organic in their tubular or triangular shapes and in the slightly irregular excrescence they always present. The artist’s attention to the intrinsic properties of materials and value she places in their rigidity or flexibility, their malleability, and especially their colour, are essential elements of her universe – poetic, uncluttered, and undeniably driven by a search for beauty.