Merz belonged to the generation of artists that emerged in the wake of World War II, who exposed traditional painting and sculpture to a new range of mediums and forms. Born in Milan, he was a major figure in the ‘Arte Povera’ movement and his work is characterised by a close connection with nature. Using familiar and humble materials, Merz often juxtaposed the organic and inorganic, exploring experiences of life and humanity. Ideas regarding infinity and repetition are also central to his work and he is perhaps most famous for his igloo constructions and his fascination with the Fibonacci sequence (the mathematical formula for growth patterns found in many forms of life).
Introduced by the Italian art critic and curator Germano Celant in 1967, ‘arte povera’ literally translates as ‘poor art’. As a movement was concerned with eliminating the idea of art as an exclusive activity. Demonstrating openness to new materials, the artists associated with the movement rejected traditional materials such as oil paint or bronze. Instead they employed ‘valueless’ found objects and materials such as stones and soil.