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Born: 1925, Milan, Italy
Died: 2003, Turin, Italy
Mario Merz's art encapsulates a hostility to the technological, the rational, and the mass-produced. In this respect, his work shares many of the preoccupations of Arte Povera—literally "poor art"—a term coined to describe the work of Merz, his wife, Marisa, and a loosely associated group of their contemporaries working in the vibrant milieu of the Italian art scene of the late 1960s. At the core of Merz's practice is his use of the infinite mathematical sequence known as the Fibonacci series, which results when two consecutive numbers are added together to generate the next: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on. The Fibonacci number sequences—manifested in natural processes and shell and plant forms—were for Merz emblematic of the vitality of organic creation. The artist's characteristic use of rudimentary materials in his sculpture suggests a scavenging, ritualized, and provisional form of art making. In A Mallarmé, he uses neon and newspapers in a sculptural evocation of the French poet Stephane Mallarmé's words, "A roll of the dice will never abolish chance" (1897) and to elicit the tension between certainty and the chaotic flow of world events.