Mario Merz - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf

  • Exhibited

    Essen, Museum Folkwang, Mario Merz, January 26 - March 4, 1979

  • Literature

    S. Gohr, Köln Sammelt, Cologne, 1988, p. 101 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    As a scholar of contemporary art, I had already experienced Pop art firsthand at the Venice Biennale, had known Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jim Dine, and was a reader of the Minimalism-influenced Artforum. Thus I was not immediately struck by Merz’s work, except by the presence of one new visual element, fluorescent tubing--not the mass-produced version used by Dan Flavin, but the free-form type seen in advertising signs. Merz’s neon lights, which hung from the projecting structures or traversed them, seeming to pierce and tear them open, produced a perceptual surprise: They destroyed the object. At the same time, the paintings’ aggressive swells became enhanced by the lights’ lightning-like brightness. The luminous energy introduced an aspect of fragility and impalpability and not only created a crisis for the primary object (sometimes bottles as well as various fabric items) but also altered the way colors and forms were read. The glass and canvas became less anonymous and more alive, and therefore organic. The encounter between discordant entities added up to an intentionally vertiginous, if not chaotic, whole. In this interweaving of elements and materials, Merz created an autonomous ‘habitat.’ In 1966, this kind of production was decidedly disruptive to the day’s more prominent, monolithic theory of art, the absolutism of Minimalism’s pure concepts and surfaces. But Merz’s stance, which questioned the linguistic and territorial limits of artistic research, was shared by an entire generation of artists whose work ranged from arte povera to Body art, from Land art to Conceptual art, and whose number included Joseph Beuys, Jannis Kounellis, Bruce Nauman, and Joseph Kosuth. Merz’s artistic practice at that time, in fact, coincided with the concerns of society at large, where critiques of social order in its most advanced industrial manifestations were giving birth to models of procedural extremism, both political and cultural, based principally on marginalized values. Indeed, the rebellion of that young generation was about an ethical vindication of social relationships, and this challenge was manifested both in Europe and in America, with an invitation to shake off the weight of the past. Artists, who no longer had any intention of relinquishing control to others--critics, dealers, collectors, or museums--similarly rejected the traditional hierarchy of techniques and materials. Instilled with a utopian spirit, Merz, who was in fact jailed for his antifascist views, attempted in his work to abolish all degrees of stratification and felt urgently impelled to break free of those strictures and battle for the equivalence of things. G. Celant, Sphere of influence-Passages-Mario Merz—Biography, ArtForum, January, 2004



1966 - 1979
Wire mesh over aluminum support with glass bottle, metal clamps, and neon light.
Overall: 28 x 9 x 150 in. (71.1 x 22.9 x 381 cm).

£70,000 - 90,000 

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm