Jack Mernin: Future Novel
1. A solo exhibition of Jack Mernin, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City
2. Presenting large scale canvases and corresponding smaller works, Mernin attempts to collapse narrative and inspire conversation and interrogation
Trotter&Sholer presents Future Novel, a solo exhibition by Jack Mernin. Future Novel is Mernin’s first solo show in New York City. Mernin’s work has been exhibited in the United States: in New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Washington, as well as in Italy and the Philippines.
With Future Novel Mernin attempts to collapse narrative and inspire conversation and interrogation. Ambiguity is fundamental to Mernin’s practice. Upon the completion of a work, Mernin’s role shifts from maker to viewer and his relationship to the object changes. His works require time and repeat viewings from his audience. Mernin has expressed jealousy of novelists, because they seize hours or weeks of their audiences’ time, while many view paintings for mere moments before moving on. The complexity of Mernin’s work is a call to viewers, asking them for slow contemplative looking.
Three large scale canvases and three corresponding smaller works are the foundation of Future Novel. Mernin anthropomorphizes his large works and thinks of them as individuals with particular personalities. For Future Novel, the smaller works were painted after the large works and in some sense can be understood as portraits of their counterparts. Each large painting is hung in the gallery across the room from its model, and the viewer finds themselves caught in the space between, required to turn front to back, to examine the relationships between the works. This gallery space serves as a physical locus for the liminal space of conversation and interpretation. The pieces exist in dialogue with each other and also allow for a kind of discourse between artist and viewer.
For Mernin, this dialogue is intentionally multivalent. He wants the viewer to bring their concerns, ideas, and intentions to the work. Rather than expressing a particular point of view, Mernin engages with his work spontaneously and unexpectedly. Each piece is constructed in successive planes, and his orientation towards the composition shifts as he interacts with the tension and specificity in the work. Below the exterior of each piece are layers of line, color, and shape that have guided the work to its final form but may no longer be available from the visibile surface.
Mernin’s painting is self-referential without resorting to prescriptive narrative. Theft and Palinode depicts images of an earlier sketch on paper by Mernin in the form of two white painted sheets near the bottom of the canvas. This is perhaps a reference not only to his earlier work, but to art history as a whole. Mernin is acutely aware of the breadth of foundations on which he stands. He often feels as if he is stealing ideas or techniques from older artists or those who came before. This causes a certain amount of tension and anxiety for him as an artist, but he finds inspiration in sitting with those feelings. With Future Novel Mernin is exploring the limits of innovation and accepting that artists create anyway. There will be another painting, and it is novel.