Mario MERZ

[1925 - 2003]

Chiaro oscuro / oscuro chiaro [1988]

  • iron, glass, lead, vise, wood, bamboo, stone, neon tube, shoe, wax 280.0cm, Φ300.0cm

[Audio Guide]

This work can be interpreted as both a temporary hut or as one hemisphere of a celestial body. The artist, Mario Merz, has said that, “Upon entering, you will be comforted,” but the combination of various building materials such as glass, lead, bamboo, and glowing neon tubes creates a sense of tension as though the slightest touch would cause the structure to collapse. Modelled after the temporary residences known as “igloos,” built from snow by the Inuit peoples of the Arctic region, Merz has made many works of this kind of domed structure as a barrier to provide a brief respite from the materialistic society of the 20th century. The artist made this work in Nagoya in 1988 during a visit to Japan. The igloo was not premeditated but was made spontaneously from materials that were readily available and found by the artist, in order to gently probe the question of humanity’s connection to this world.

The refuse of newspapers or the refuse of nature or the refuse of the body of the snail have in themselves the spiral or the continuity in time of power of space [1979]

  • newspaper, neon tube, glass, clay, cloth 270.0×1000.0×600.0cm

[Audio Guide]

In this work, lines forming the shape of a spiral and some text have been marked onto a large piece of fabric that has been pinned to a wall, with stacks of old newspapers lined up in rows on the floor. Neon numbers have been positioned at various points on top of the newspaper stacks. Reading from the viewer’s left, the numbers are in an ordered sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, ... etc., where each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. This sequence is known as the Fibonacci series. Merz is not presenting simple numerals, but is instead recognizing “living mathematics,” and incorporating this escalating code into his work. The image of a spiral suggests continuous change, and the stack of newspapers indicates the documentation of human history. From these elements, Merz is not only giving expression to the world of living things, but also the organic connections and power of propagation that can be discovered in humanity’s circumstances.


Collection Audio Guide