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Gallery 105

June 8, 2005 – February 18, 2007

In the late 1960s, the term Arte Povera, meaning literally "poor art," was coined to describe a group of artists, mostly Italians, who began to use unconventional industrial, organic, or everyday materials in three-dimensional works as a way of stressing the conflict between nature and man-made creations.

Mario Merz, one of the leading Arte Povera artists, uses glass, metal pipes, branches, clay, and screws in his Unreal City, Nineteen Hundred Eighty-Nine (1989). Since 1968, Merz has been using the hemispherical form of the igloo, a temporary dwelling, to reflect his view of the artist as nomad, moving from place to place to mediate between nature and culture and resisting stylistic uniformity. Greek artist Jannis Kounellis's installation Untitled (1988) also deliberately combines industrial materials like coal and iron, which he positions, like paintings, against the wall. The fusion of organic and inorganic materials symbolizes the unpredictable, mutable nature of the meaning of art.

Contemporaneous with Arte Povera, Environmental art reflected an increasingly felt need to get closer to nature while rejecting the commercialization of art. During his walks through uncultivated land, English artist Richard Long arranges wood, stone, or dirt into geometric forms, photographing his interventions as a means of preserving what nature will eventually undo. Long's poetic indoor installations, such as his Bilbao Circle (2000), recall the artist's movements over diverse terrains.

Born in Germany just months before the final European battle of World War II, Anselm Kiefer grew up witnessing the results of modern warfare and the division of his homeland. He also experienced the rebuilding of a fragmented nation and its struggle for renewal. His work is broadly described by the term Neo-Expressionism, a tendency that emerged in the late 1970s marked by a return to gestural painting and allegorical content. The group of works presented in this exhibition, large-format landscapes painted with a subdued palette, offers an overview of the artist's development on canvas and his unique employ of organic and industrial materials, including sheets of lead, straw, plaster, seeds, ashes, and earth.

Mario Merz

Unreal City, Nineteen Hundred Eighty-Nine (Città irreale, Millenovecentottantanove), 1989

Glass, mirror, metal pipes, twigs, rubber, clay, and clamps

5 x 12.8 x 9.9 m overall

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift of the artist