Mika Ross-Southall at the TLS:
Mario Merz, a leading figure of the Italian avant-garde movement Arte Povera, first began to draw in prison, after being arrested in 1945 for his involvement with an anti-Facist group in Turin. He recorded his cell mate’s beard in continuous spirals, often without lifting his pencil off the paper. After his release, he painted leaves, animals and biomorphic shapes in a colourful Expressionist style. It wasn’t until the 1960s, though, that he began creating the three-dimensional works – using everyday objects and materials, such as wood, wool, glass, fruit, umbrellas and newspaper – for which he became famous.
“It is necessary to use anything whatsoever from life in art”, Merz said, “not to reject things because one thinks that life and art are mutually exclusive.” This sentiment is clear in the twelve pieces inspired by the protest movements of 1968, which are currently on show at the Fondazione Merz in Turin.