Sanchez Art Center
is proud to present the unique surrealist vision of Pierre Merkl
III in Scenes, Schemes, and Genes (Skeins), curated by
DeWitt Cheng. The opening reception will be held Friday, February
21 from 7 to 9 pm, with music provided by Pacifican pianist Michael
| On Sunday,
March 30 (the last day of the exhibit), Pierre Merkl and curator
DeWitt Cheng will give a free talk about Merkl’s work.
The talented and original painter Pierre Merkl III stands out from the crowd, even though he may be more likely to picture himself as one of the crowd in his mesmerizing portraits and “group shots.” His work is innovative and haunting, though one can’t at first say why, and memorable to the point of being indelibly imprinted on viewers’ retinas. Mostly known as a portraitist, he goes well beyond acceptance of that genre as it has typically been understood. For one series, he set up confrontational portrait sittings, wherein a subject would sit with as much candor and openness as they could muster, while Merkl attempted to meet the sitter’s energy with his own probing inventory of the person as they were in the moment. These “Confrontational Portraits’ took place within the short time span of two hours, so that the result was necessarily fresh, even a bit raw. “Pull No Punches” might be the name of this game.
Merkl was born in
New York and has embraced many roles on his path through life. In
one incarnation, he is known as “Mr. Lucky,” a crooner who has performed
at Lincoln Center, New York, as well as at Burning Man in the Nevada
desert. Merkl’s day job is working as a licensed private investigator,
and he has drawn extensively on this background and his observational
skills and experiences in this role to fuel his artwork. It may
therefore not be surprising that some of the made-up, imagined people
in his paintings have the underpinnings of a slightly unsavory reality,
such as Spouse Confronting Husband with Infidelity. Mainly,
he attempts to capture moments outside of our comfortable, socially
acceptable world of air-brushed TV-anchor news bytes. He describes
his work as “humanesque” and himself as an “abstract humanist,”
whose forte is an “inclusive and expansive psychological pictorial.”
Encounters, conflicts, and otherwise uncomfortable situations abound
in his paintings, complete with sly innuendo and an ironic view
of human nature. And yet there is also tenderness and caring in
his work, which is captured visually in the careful shading and
attention to color. After all, who among us has not felt caught
out, on the spot, or caught up in the swirling emotions of a group
dilemma? This is part of our human plight, and Merkl helps us to
not only see this but also to bear it.
After the February 21 opening night, the galleries are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm, through the exhibit’s closing day, March 30. Sanchez Art Center is located at 1220 Linda Mar Blvd., Pacifica, California, about 1.5 miles east of Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean.