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Enzo Mari

Struttura 867, 1967

Lacquered metal, wood, glass

84,5 x 84,5 x 12,7 cm

© Artist

Photo: Gerhard Sauer


Enzo Mari will be known to many people as a designer. Few realize that apart from his profession designing furniture, toys and household goods, and even as an author of children's books, he has also been a key figure in post-war Italian art. His paintings and objects have contributed to the establishment of several art movements which, as Arte programmata and Op Art, have earned a permanent place in art history. Already in his student days, Mari occupied himself deeply with theories of perception and transposed these insights into artworks.


Struttura 867 consists of a kind of type case consisting of 24 x 24 or 576 small boxes filled with metal dies lacquered in white, yellow or orange. The dies are arranged to produce a mosaic of a right-angled spiral that begins in the lower left-hand corner. This pattern constitutes the first structural element, to which comes a second, for the dies have also been set at different depths in their respective boxes. They follow the spiral-form in an undulating motion made up of twelve stages, such that the first die is always set the deepest and the seventh in each cycle marks the highest point. This essentially rational and very systematically thought-out arrangement of colour, form and spatial values initially produces a confusing effect on the eye, and a certain effort and concentration is required to grasp the nature of what is actually a quite simple construction. The impression is further enhanced by the appropriate lighting and the beholder's own movements, because the shadows cast by the side walls of the small boxes, which have been filled to different depths, create an additional irregular pattern of horizontal and vertical waves that undergoes constant change and appears to have no relation to the first two structural elements.


Astonishingly enough, anyone who decides to laugh this off as a game is not so wrong: the notion of the game was extremely important for Mari and his colleagues, and they set about exploiting it for art. On the basis of simple but strictly maintained rules, Mari creates with his Struttura games for the senses, games in which the mind and perception may intuitively learn how they function.


Enzo Mari

1932 born in Novara

2020 died in Milan