The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
Description Igloo Nero
'Igloo Nero' by the Italian artist Mario Merz initially consisted of a frame of tubes in the form of a hemisphere, covered in black roofing material. The words “luoghi senza strada” (places without streets) are shown in handwritten letters of blue neon. The work dates from 1967 to 1979. In 1994, Merz expanded this igloo and placed a larger tubular frame over it. Pieces of slate were attached to this frame with clamps.
The central theme in Merz’s work is the relationship between nature and culture. In this respect, his work is similar to that of other Italian artists of his generation. They became well known as members of Arte Povera. Merz was particularly interested in processes of growth and development. The expansion of 'Igloo Nero' in 1994 corresponded with this interest: an artwork can also develop and grow. With the addition, Merz inceased the number of contrasts that were already present in the earlier version. The dark shape of the inner igloo contrasts with the neon light. The words in neon are reminiscent of urban culture; their meaning refers to untamed places. The first igloo is made of industrial materials and has an enclosed form; the added part contains natural materials and has an open character.
Since 1968, the motif of the igloo has regularly recurred in Merz’s work. He said: “The essence of this is that it is not only a sculpture, but also a real habitable structure.” It is a primitive form of building. The hemisphere has an undivided inner space: there are no walls and no ceiling. It separates the inside from the outside, and a person living in such a house is still close to nature. Merz prefers to work with these primitive forms. The Fibonacci series of numbers is another recurring theme in his work, expressing the principle of growth and multiplication in plants and animals. He also uses the spiral as a common motif, because for Merz it is an endlessly expanding form which symbolizes the growth of living matter. The igloo is related to the spiral form and the Fibonacci series: it continually expands from the top in accordance with a particular system.