Peter Schjeldahl at The New Yorker:
The Met Breuer is not yet a year old, but it has already distinguished itself as a site of beguiling and serious surprises: a huge survey of unfinished works by masters of Western art, a provocatively ingenious installation of Diane Arbus photographs, and a terrific retrospective (soon to close) of the African-American painter Kerry James Marshall. The latest is “Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space,” the first major retrospective of the Italian artist in the United States. Merz is the least-known and, perhaps not incidentally, the only female member of Arte Povera, a movement shepherded into existence, in 1967, by the art critic Germano Celant, as Italy’s ambitious riposte to American Pop and minimalism. About a dozen artists participated, creating large, often sprawling abstract sculptures in humble materials—dirt, rocks, tree branches, used clothes, rope, burlap, industrial detritus—putatively to counter the sterility of consumer culture, but also, more practically, to master the capacious exhibition spaces that were becoming an international norm.
Marisa Merz was routinely identified as the wife and, since 2003, the widow of one of Arte Povera’s leading figures, Mario Merz; for years her own work was exhibited sporadically and afforded only glancing consideration. But at the Met Breuer she emerges as the liveliest artist in a movement that was often marred by intellectual and poetic pretensions, and whose abstracted themes of nature and metaphysics rarely appealed to American sensibilities, and still don’t very much. (Minimalism, which never took hold in Italy, had pretty well cauterized symbolic content for the art world here.)