After the eruption of light into Gordon Matta-Clark’s “de-architecture,” and the surprising continuity of his work with cubism, I want to revisit Marisa Merz’s Scarpette and revise my claim in an earlier post that because they are woven they carry an image of painting. On the surface, the claim is incredible, but deeper down it is even more interesting. Consider this description of their first showing:
“The arrangement of the slippers on the wall was determined by the position of the moon viewed through one of the three windows in the gallery…as the moon appeared through the window she put on the slippers and sat down on a chair to watch it with her feet against the wall, while Mario Merz attached one of the slippers to the wall. The second slipper was attached the following day, with the moon appearing in a slightly different position and half an hour later.”
Not painting and sculpture, this piece might be better described as both sculpture and fairy tale, say something about magic slippers and princesses. The interval between the hanging of the two shoes could be the time and space traversed by a single stride. The moon doesn’t actually appear in the piece, but tells the artist something about when and where to hang the slippers, so there is an untold story deep inside the piece. A fairy tale could be depicted in a painting, but it’s hard to imagine how it could enter sculpture of the type practiced in Merz’s milieu; this unlikely achievement is the genius of the work.
The pictorial or painterly aspects of this piece could be: the use of light, the use of the wall, and the woven surface. The sculptural aspects would include: the forming of volumes by folding the woven surface, the tactility of their making and the foot (a synecdoche of a statue, like a broken piece of classical art, also metonymic of the pedestal—the piece could be her reply to Manzoni’s Socle du Monde). But these elements combined don’t fill the imaginative dimensions of the piece. The most “painterly” feature is the moonlight, which lives in the realm of poetry, imagination, fantasy that gives an aura to the work, but is not materially present to the viewer. It may be far fetched to claim that a residue of the painterly or optical can be found in a loosely woven slipper, but I do claim that it can be found in a non-material, quasi literary realm that is nonetheless still part of art. I now want to work back in the other direction and show that we are not just passive observers of optical effects, but that they are created by desire and imagination.