Enzo Mari, Artist


Look, I don't doubt that Enzo Mari hates the art world as much as he hates design. Even more, probably, since he's a faithful communist in an era when--Picasso bedamned--it's really hard out there in the art market for a Red.


Mari is just as resolute about not distinguishing between art and design. And he makes art. Objects. And has, for over 60 years.

Just check this out, 44 valutazioni, a suite of 44 abstract sculptures Mari exhibited at the 1976 Venice Biennale.


When they're listed in order the title from each piece becomes the line in a poem by Francesco Leonetti, and when they're assembled, well, hello, comrade! A hammer and sickle! Old school.

installation images of Mari's GAM Torino show from designboom's extensive galleries.

We've brought Group ZERO back, right? At some point, the art world, and art history, are going to have to take Mari's artworks into account, because, damn. He was doing minimalism and seriality a full decade before Judd and Lewitt.


What are these struttura of which no one really seems to speak? [Except here, in a 30-year-old Italian monograph titled, naturally, Enzo Mari, Designer, which includes a chapter on Mari's "research of form" and these "instruments of perception"?]

1956, struttura no. 301? Really? The only thing more eyebrow-raising than your date is your estimate: EUR6-8,000 at Dorotheum.

[OK, so maybe six years before Lewitt. Here's his 1962 painting Objectivity at the National Gallery of Art:]


[I guess I was thinking of Lewitt's 1967 Dwan Gallery show--and exhibition poster/print--and his 1968 photo object, Schematic Drawing for Muybridge, as seen here in flickr user clarkvr's snap:]

Schematic Drawing for Muybridge II, 1964

But then there's kinetic art, too. And what in the world is this? Omaggio a Fadat, 1967, a machine for "creating virtual volume" made from 64 lights, switches, steel, and perspex?


I mean, I know he had a show last year [2008-9, actually] at GAM Torino, but even if you call it "The Art of Design" and include a bunch of awesome sculptures, shoehorning 60 years of stuff into one gallery of a municipal museum is not exactly a retrospective. Look at this Omaggio, for example, if you can:


Also, he curated the show himself. Or designed it himself, using objects selected by his friends. Believe me, I know DIY's his big thing, but seriously. It's not like Mari's an unknown quantity, and his influence is readily acknowledged--hell, he's a huge influence on me, and building his autoprogettazione table as an art exercise, then devising an exhibition based on his principles of authorized reproducibility have kept him on the top of my mind for much of the last four years, at least--but he seems relegated to the designer's corner, and his artwork--oh how sweet, the designer makes art, too!--with him.

Or am I missing something? Please say yes. [hmm, after some market-related digging, Mari's problem may be that he makes Italian art, and only two Italian artists are allowed to become well-known outside of Italy each decade. Not much to be done about that, I guess.]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: November 3, 2010.

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