Plenty of colours and light: that is what you will find in the eye-catching works by Italian artist Mario Merz (1925–2003). Born in Milan, Merz first began experimenting with art and painting while imprisoned for his activities associated with the Italian anti-fascist group, Giustizia e Libertà. Initially wanting to use a single, continuous line to create his images, he experimented with the relationship between what he created and its natural setting. Another source of inspiration was his relationship with Marisa Merz, whom he met in 1950 and later married. Both were part of the Arte Povera movement, and are said to have inspired each other significantly in their art.
Neon lights and Fibonacci
The continuous line used in Merz’s art evolved as his practice progressed, transforming into what he is best known for – his neon light installations. Using fluorescent tubes, Merz shaped words and numbers to form luminous messages that made a profound impact on the works and locations with which they were associated. Mixed with glass and fabric, Merz created his famous igloo shapes, featuring domes decorated with coloured fluorescent tubes, visible from a long distance away. His use of the Fibonnacci sequence is apparent in his installations, where he places numbers in a specific order to recreate this well-known sequence. Placed on tall buildings, these neon lights form vertical sequences along the architecture.
Cheap materials against industrialism
Merz did not focus on the beautiful, nor on the simple painted canvas, but on using conventional materials to comment on consumerism and industrialism, to offer a voice of dissent against modern capitalist life. This was reflected in his use of simple and humble materials, openly avoiding media typically used for conventionally beautiful works of art. Merz’s main emphasis was on man and an egalitarian view of humanity, rejecting the dehumanising consumerism that grew rapidly during Merz’s lifetime.