At the end of the 1960s, an artistic movement emerged that explored the relationship between art and life through natural and everyday materials. One of its maxims became expressing emotions and avoiding the aesthetically superfluous. It originated in Italy, and was called Arte Povera or in its literal translation Poor Art. Despite the poverty of the material, its richness, full of messages, was the essence claimed by the artists linked to this current of contemporary art, framed in the twentieth century.

Mario Merz (Milan, 1925 – Turin, 2003) was one of its greatest exponents and his entire creative path remained faithful to the Povera discourse. An activist in anti-fascist groups, he was arrested for political motives in 1945, where he began to draw on whatever material he had within his range. At the end of the 1960s, he joined the Povera group, which revolved around the art critic Germano Celant.  Artists such as Pistolleto, Kounellis, Marisa Merz and Anselmo, among others, came together to highlight the dehumanised industrialisation and excesses of European post-war consumer capitalism.

Mario Merz. El tiempo es mudo
Parque del Retiro, Palacio de Velázquez. Madrid.
11 October, 2019 – 29 March, 2020

He explored the proportion of nature and was inspired by the harmony of numbers and forms; Fibonacci (mathematician in the Middle Ages), with its spirals and numerical progressions, is present in Merz’s discourse. His works have become a manifesto to the recovery of a way of life that has been lost and that we must recover. In this sense, the representation of animals is also a key point in his work. A hope in the glance to the mythical and ancestral.

The retrospective exhibition El tiempo es Mudo (Time is silent) offered by the Reina Sofía Museum, in its exhibition hall at the Palacio de Velázquez in Madrid, shows us an artist committed to his time. His works offer an alternative to the “civilized” society, with scientifically demonstrated rules and, above all, from the poetics of the discovered material.


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Closer habitats with gentle forms starting from the circle, triangles existing in any organic manifestation or people being photographed in progressive numbering groups, are a constant compliment to the laws of golden proportion present in nature. We no longer find all this in cities and the artist insisted on remembering it.

Drawing, painting, sculpture and installation make the deterioration of cities more evident. Mario Merz’s evocative work keeps us in a “silent” time-line, as indicated by the name of this exhibition curated by Manuel Borja-Villel, which takes us between yesterday and now, through important themes such as ecology and recycling.  Branches, earth, apples, wicker, wax or fabrics cohabit in the same planes, with neon lights and plastics. In short, contradictions of daily life that art, as always, confronts us for reflection.


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