In­flu­en­tial Ital­ian artist’s work still poses rel­e­vant ques­tions

The new woman in charge of Leeds’ Henry Moore In­sti­tute has brought Mario Merz to the build­ing. Nick Ahad re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - ART -

ARTISTS to­day, says Lisa Le Feu­vre, owe a debt of grat­i­tude to Ital­ian artist Mario Merz and many ref­er­ence him in his work. The irony is that many of them have never ac­tu­ally seen any of his cre­ations first hand.

The new head of sculp­ture stud­ies at the in­sti­tute de­cided to put that right with a first solo ex­hi­bi­tion of the artist’s work at the Henry Moore In­sti­tute, and the first of the artist for al­most 30 years.

“This is a show I have wanted to do for years,” says Le Feu­vre, who has taken the post va­cated by Pene­lope Cur­tis, now at Tate Bri­tain.

“He is such an im­por­tant artist who so many artists, es­pe­cially those in their twen­ties and thir­ties, ref­er­ence, but none of them will have seen his work.”

Merz, who died in 2003, was a lead­ing fig­ure of Arte Povera, a term re­fer­ring to a loose group­ing of Ital­ian artists in the im­me­di­ate post-war pe­riod. He was work­ing in a time of so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and artis­tic up­heaval as Italy dealt with the con­se­quences of the post-war ‘eco­nomic mir­a­cle’ of the 1950s that po­larised eco­nomic in­equal­i­ties.

Le Feu­vre says: “One of our guid­ing prin­ci­ples at the in­sti­tute is that we do things when they need to be done and it felt like very much the right time to have an ex­hi­bi­tion of Merz’s work right now.

“He was cre­at­ing work in a time of un­cer­tainty, work­ing in Turin in the late Six­ties at a time of in­cred­i­ble un­cer­tainty eco­nom­i­cally, which had a wider im­pact on the art world and on the way we thought about art and cul­ture.

“I see that some­thing sim­i­lar is hap­pen­ing to­day, where we are ques­tion­ing the role of cul­ture in so­ci­ety, which makes Merz’s work in­cred­i­bly rel­e­vant to to­day.”

The open­ing of the ex­hi­bi­tion drew vis­i­tors from around York­shire, which de­lighted the In­sti­tute’s new head of sculpl­ture stud­ies, but it also drew vis­i­tors from Lon­don and as far away as Italy, such was its sig­nif­i­cance.

Vis­i­tors to the ex­hi­bi­tion will see a sort of guided tour around the ca­reer high­lights of the Ital­ian artist, with a num­ber of ma­te­ri­als and forms he used through his ca­reer, start­ing with his use of neon, be­gin­ning in 1966; the igloo, start­ing in 1968; nu­mer­i­cal pro­gres­sions, used from 1970; and the ques­tion ‘What is to be done?’ or in Ital­ian ‘Che fare?’, which he used from 1967.

Le Feu­vre says: “I think art tends to go in cy­cles of 35 years and it was fas­ci­nat­ing once we had in­stalled the ex­hi­bi­tion to see the staff go­ing around the work and all of them were say­ing it felt like it could have been made now.

“That’s how rel­e­vant and con­tem­po­rary his work re­mains.”

Mario Merz: What is to be Done. Henry Moore In­sti­tute, to Oct 30.

BRIDG­ING THE DI­VIDE: Mario Merz’s Il Ponte, part of an ex­hibiton of his work at the Henry Moore In­sti­tute.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.