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Long Island City, NY (June 1, 1998) - A major artwork by Italian artist Mario Merz is on view at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center through August 30, 1998. Titled L’Horizont de lumiere traverse notre vertical du jour, this important piece is on loan from the Vera Van Laer Gallery, which premiered the work at the opening of its new Antwerp gallery in 1996. The piece is installed in P.S.1’s large, naturally lit and newly redesigned second floor gallery.
For L’Horizont de lumiere traverse notre vertical du jour (which translates "The horizontal light passes through our vertical day"), Merz created a fluidly winding and curving glass table on which rest rhythmically spaced double-conical glass vases. Filled with deep purple wine or golden honey, these vases are connected and horizontally intersected by glowing white neon lances.
Continuing a common theme of Merz’s -- the table -- L’Horizont de lumiere traverse notre vertical du jour is part of an oeuvre based on a firm and ancient nature philosophy. Using all different kinds of materials, Merz transforms environments into complex spaces where natural and cultural elements are finely woven into each other.
Formally, Merz’s simple and elegant work has similarities to that of the American Minimalists. Strongly inspired by the romantic ideas of the avant-garde, Merz has always striven to capture his vision of the world in one total image. Yet unlike the Minimalists, Merz attaches multiple and complex meanings to his work.
Merz’s artwork does not represent or present. His pieces often defy literal interpretation, but invite a more layered production of meaning and reflection on nature and the world. In fact, Merz embraces duality -- continuity and discontinuity, vertical and horizontal, the autonomous and the referential -- recognizing how much the tension is intensified by doing so. Merz strives for a dialectic relationship between the work and its context.
Of L’Horizont de lumiere traverse notre vertical du jour, Merz himself writes: The table, flowing like continuity, could sentimentally remind one of a river. It is a progression, and at the same time a constant. Like wine glasses, some full, some empty. It gives possibilities. Images of care, moments in time, living matter placed between hard material. It breathes, it moves. Cold white neon in between. Crossing through the groupings of the vertical moments. They move through the space on the table.
Born in 1925 in Turin, Italy, Mario Merz rose to prominence in the 1960’s as a leading exponent of Arte Povera and is said to have joined the ranks of legends of modern and contemporary art such as Van Gogh and Francis Bacon. Merz’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums all over Europe as well as in the United States, including Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Irvine Art Gallery, Los Angeles; Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
The term Arte Povera, coined in 1967 by Germano Celant, literally means "poor art" and refers to artwork made of inexpensive, ordinary materials. Depriving audiences of the preciousness, craftsmanship, and links to tradition that it expects, Arte Povera offers viewers puzzlement as a source of richness, and forces a reconsideration of the value of the discarded and neglected. Though it shares with its North American Minimalist contemporaries a love of simple elegance, Arte Povera is differentiated by its concern with multiple layers of content, for the Minimalists felt that the isolation of immediate materiality was self-sufficient.
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