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Looking Back at the Inimitable Art of Marisa Merz

Marisa Merz, Untitled, 1979.

COURTESY GLADSTONE GALLERY

On Friday night, Marisa Merz, the storied Italian sculptor who was the only woman in the Arte Povera movement that began in the late 1960s, died at the age of 93. Long a less-known figure in that group, she saw her prominence rise in the last years of her life, with a major appearance at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and a retrospective that began in 2017 and traveled to New York; Los Angeles; Saltzburg, Austria; and Porto, Portugal.

Over the course of more than half a century, Merz produced a body of work that ranged from hanging sculptures of undulating metal, to intricate, humble stitched pieces, to ceramics and paintings that showcased beguiling heads and bodies. It is, in short, a career that shrugs off any straightforward summation, a fact heightened by her disinclination to explicate her work, provide dates for it, or even speak to the press.

Below, then, is a too-brief and necessarily incomplete look at her practice, from the mid-1960s almost up to the present.

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