Over 50 years, Manuel Mérida has developed unique work on the possibilities offered by the material. From February 6 to March 27, 2021, the Rétroviseur exhibition will be organized as a retrospective. On this occasion, the artist's first catalog raisonné will be published by Espace Meyer Zafra with texts by Matthieu Poirier, art historian and exhibition curator specializing in kinetic art, and Valentina Locatelli, historian of the art and art specialist from South America.
Painter, decorator, advertising designer and scenographer, Manuel Mérida, born November 25, 1939 in Valencia, Venezuela was trained at the Arturo Michelena School of Plastic Arts in his hometown under the aegis of painting professor Braulio Salazar, a key figure in the career of Mérida.
An informalist painter at his beginnings in the 1960s, his work is recognized in his country of origin but the desire to experiment pushes him to leave Caracas for Paris in 1968. It is from this trip that all of his work is born. Upon his arrival in Paris, Manuel Mérida joined Carlos Cruz-Diez's studio. While working for the Venezuelan master, Mérida is in total experimentation, not knowing what he is looking for. Multiple discussions with Cruz-Diez and his gaze on kinetic art allow him to understand the founding principles of kinetics and in particular to perceive the importance that movement could have in his work. But as Valentina Locatelli points out: “Unlike Soto or Cruz-Diez, Mérida is not interested in the process of dematerialization nor in optical illusions based on the interaction of light and vibrations; rather he wanted to work with concrete and tangible elements and wanted above all to stress their materiality. In this context, his works in advertising as well as as a set designer proved to be an important investment in his career as they provided the artist with a complete new set of technical and practical skills, in-depth knowledge of materials, mechanics and, above all, a deep-rooted sense of space and architecture, which will become the key to Mérida's large-scale installations to this day ”. On the occasion of this exhibition, Manuel Mérida will present a new monumental installation to demonstrate the importance of decor in his work.
In Paris, Manuel Mérida meets many artists with whom he will forge strong friendships such as Sergio Camargo, Carlos Cruz-Diez or even Lygia Clark (for whom he will realize two Bichos). By interacting with Clark in particular, he perceives an experimentation that seems necessary to him in art, that of the viewer's sensory perception, a central element of his work. Within the exhibition, the viewer will be able to participate in the artist's creative process by manually manipulating circular boxes dating from the 1980s and 1990s, filled with materials (pigments, colored cut papers, wood, sand, rusty metal, confetti, etc. construction debris, etc.).
From the 1970s, Mérida used various non-traditional materials, but unlike the materialists, he tended to break free from canvas and inserted these materials into plexiglass boxes. Mérida first developed her work with the square shape constituting her Crashel and Cajas Manipulables series, exhibited in 1973 at the Sala Mendoza Foundation in Caracas. From that moment on, Mérida got closer to kinetics by using movement as a decisive element in her work. Through his work, he wishes to avoid offering a fixed and unique vision, playing with variations of the material. Within the Rétroviseur retrospective, the viewer will be able to appreciate this square shape with the work Carré Écolier.
As Pontus Hulten said in his text Movement-Time or the four dimensions of kinetic plastic: “Movement is a spark of life that makes art human and truly realistic. A work of art endowed with a kinetic rhythm that never repeats itself is one of the freest beings imaginable. ". In her early days, Mérida realizes that the kinetic rhythm of the square shape is not optimal. According to him, this form is imposed too much and puts in the background the central element of his work which is the material. From there, the circular shape will gradually impose itself in order to place the material in the foreground. Within the exhibition, the viewer will be able to see this confrontation that exists between the square and circular works of Manuel Mérida.
In various shapes, sizes and contents, the works presented in the Rearview mirror exhibition are animated by the hand of the viewer as in the work of Kinetic Painting. The others, activated by a motor, move slowly (eg: Orange Circle Signalisation). Manuel Mérida uses the potentialities of chance to create a work in perpetual transformation
The viewer's experience thus takes a major place in this exhibition. Whether by manual activation or by the action of a motor, the viewer is invited to participate fully in the experience of the work.