Marisa Merz Exhibition

Gladstone Gallery (130 E 64th St.)

poster for Marisa Merz Exhibition

This event has ended.

Gladstone presents an exhibition of works by Marisa Merz (1926 – 2019). The show brings together significant works by Merz whose artistic debut was distinctly different from the rest of the Arte Povera cohort.

Strong or delicate, finished or unfinished, ancient or contemporary, the art of Marisa Merz is intensely dialogical. Viewing her works entails entering into a conversation with them. Meanings, and our understandings, deepen through a process of engagement with the seemingly opposed forces, states, or materials she harnesses in each work. We explore the edges of a gestural drawing to discover traces of a compositional scaffolding, we interrogate a block of wax to understand if it is liquid or solid, and we seek a figure emerging from a lump of unfired clay. The persistently enigmatic qualities of her works have frequently been understood as a feminist strategy, a way to side-step an aesthetic language that was inaccessible to, or at least ill-fitting for, women in mid-century Italy. Others have argued that such a lens limits our ability to understand her contributions to the broader history of sculpture, of postwar figuration, and of conceptual art. Understanding her works as invitations to dialogue–to investigate materials, sensations, and imagery–allows us to see the way Merz questioned the traditional role of the artist in ways that aligned with the most radical perspectives of her (male) Arte Povera colleagues, and, simultaneously, recast artistic identity in her own (female) image.

Merz’s creative emergence can be traced to when she invited friends to see the pendulous sewn-aluminum forms known as Living Sculpture (1966) that had been steadily taking over the Turin home/studio she shared with her husband, artist Mario Merz, and their young daughter. That she understood raising a child and being an artist part of the same lived experience is evidenced in several works, such as the swing she built in their apartment and exhibited as a sculpture, or the “interview” she gave art critic Mirella Bandini, the entirety of which comprised a transcript of Merz and her daughter Bea discussing what to eat for lunch (not cake, but potatoes and homemade mayonnaise). Merz’s artworks graced Italian art galleries soon enough, as well as Turin’s experimental Piper Pluri Club, and she was invited to crucial international exhibitions of the era, where she contributed conceptual works and delicately balanced installations of organic and inorganic materials: knit copper and nylon threads, wax casts, or vessels filled with salt. In the early 1980s she began to make and exhibit the figurative drawings and small ceramic sculptures that would occupy so much of the subsequent four decades.



from April 29, 2023 to June 17, 2023


Marisa Merz

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