610 Function of 15
Newspapers, glass, and neon
20 x 34 x 272 3/4 in. (50.8 x 86.4 x 692.8 cm)
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Margo Leavin and Wendy Brandow
The neon numerals atop bundled stacks of newspapers in Mario Merz’s 610 Function of 15 follow the Fibonacci series of numbers. Each succeeding number is the sum of the two previous numbers. Devised by Fibonacci of Pisa, an early thirteenth-century Italian monk and mathematician, to calculate the offspring produced by a pair of rabbits, the series extends rapidly, widening like the growth of a living organism. For Merz the significance is that the numbers go into infinity, while objects are finite, and he was after an art that would do more than produce mere static objects. Not wanting art to be just another luxury commodity object, he used newspapers, which are valueless by day’s end. Merz’s ambition was to make art that matched nature’s organic growth, transformation, and flow; hence, his use of neon, the light of which traverses and connects the structures of his sculpture in an energetic flux.