Magazine article Artforum International

Marisa Merz. (Reviews)

Magazine article Artforum International

Marisa Merz. (Reviews)

Article excerpt

GALLERIA CHRISTIAN STEIN

Once again Marisa Merz has managed to astonish. Her solo exhibitions are not only rare but so full of unexpected formal and intellectual turns that when a new show comes along her admirers rash to see what she's come up with. On this occasion, as usual, a surprise was in store for those who had anticipated a grouping of small sculptures similar to those the artist recently exhibited in Paris. Merz has often turned to portraiture to animate her three-dimensional pieces, but here her interest in the theme led back to painting, that is, two-dimensional images meant to be contemplated from a single viewpoint.

But Merz's return to the specificity of pictorial language is paved with transgressive intentions. Thus a series of untitled "canvases," 2001, were in reality squares of iron installed on the wall at a height well above eye level, so that viewers had to crane their necks to look at them. The process involved in making these portraits was equally unconventional. First the artist applied blotches of gold spray paint on the metal surface. These golden stains indicate, with extremely concise gestures, the oval of the face and the general area of the eyes and mouth. Their color naturally and immediately calls to mind Byzantine icons, the dignity of a tradition in which depiction was the springboard for meditation on the divine, and the transcendence that gold symbolizes. Merz's gold is related instead to our human horizon yet still bears a luster that evokes a nobility somehow greater than that of the common iron support. …

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