A selection of sculptures and drawings celebrates the life and legacy of pioneering Italian artist Marisa Merz (1926–2019). Occupying a unique and pivotal position in postwar European art, Merz’s work combines keen attention to materials with a deeply personal symbolism.
This gallery features a number of the artist’s recurring visual motifs, such as the female head, the flowing fountain, and musical instruments whose sounds are heard only in the viewer’s mind. With their delicate and textured surfaces, Merz’s works beckon us into a cosmos all her own.
Marisa Merz was organized in collaboration with the Fondazione Merz, Turin.
Get a sneak peek at works in the exhibition.
Coming of age in Italy in the turbulence of the 1960s, Marisa Merz (1926–2019) is the sole female artist affiliated with Arte Povera—a term coined in 1967 to describe a group of artists whose work emphasized process and the use of unconventional materials in an attempt to connect art and life.
Imbuing the ordinary with redemptive and revelatory qualities, Merz’s sculptures, paintings, and drawings employ malleable materials like copper wire, wax, and unfired clay. As these elements are knotted, woven, and recombined—techniques often linked to craft and female labor—she insistently subverts antiquated stereotypes of the feminine and the maternal through the incorporation of heavy metals and industrial paints.
For many years Merz refrained from both dating her artwork and presenting it in traditional exhibition settings. This selective participation in the larger art system stemmed from her conception of art as inseparable from and entwined with daily life. Equally inspired by Byzantine religious icons, Renaissance painting, and domestic interactions with her husband, Mario Merz, and daughter, Beatrice, her work reflects an ongoing exploration of the tensions between the private and the public, the spiritual and the profane.
Marisa Merz has been made possible with support from the museum’s endowment, through the Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Excellence in Contemporary Art.
Carlos Basualdo, The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art; and Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art