Mario Merz’s igloos at Pirelli HangarBicocca

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Running until 24th February 2019 at Pirelli HangarBicocca, the Milan non-profit foundation, contemporary art, Igloos is an exhibition which focuses on Mario Merz’s landmark installations. The works date from 1968 until 2003 and brings together a constellation of thirty large-scale pieces in the shape of an igloo. This exhibition is curated by Vicente Todolí and is organised in partnership with the Merz Foundation.

Merz reacted against the dominant trends in art from the 1950s and 1960s, rejecting the mythic aspirations of movements like Abstract Expressionism in favour of a more grounded art rooted in simple materials and nature, prompting his inclusion in Italy’s loosely organised Arte Povera movement.

Merz’s presiding interest throughout his career was the transformation of materials by placing them in contact with alternate forces of energy, drawing his art into a more organic state. “I work from the emotions I get from the archetypal structure that cancels the material. Then, once I have procured the object I try to take possession of its structure with my hands, arranging it in various positions till I feel it is in unison with me physically…,” Merz said. “In fact the point of my work is to regain possession of ‘things’, by avoiding filling them out with projections, and to keep their limited but individual primary presence alive in myself.” This preoccupation—what curator Harald Szeeman called Merz’s “interior necessity”—inspired the range of Merz’s formal motif, including the igloo.

Merz’s igloos are among his most iconic works, providing a free-standing and independent form to affect material energies, however impermanent or precarious they may be. “For him it is the act of building, not the finished structure that is meaningful. Building is a journey through the territory he works in, so his process is determined by the conditions he finds, his materials—whether man-made or natural—depend upon what is locally available,” wrote curator Germano Celant.