Sun March 30, 2014

Pierre Merkl III: Scenes, Schemes, and Genes (Skeins)

Pierre Merkl III Featured at Sanchez Art Center
February 21–March 30, 2014

Three new exhibits will open at Sanchez Art Center on February 21: Pierre Merkl III with Scenes, Schemes, and Genes (Skeins) brings his unique surrealist vision to the Main Gallery. Portraits in West Gallery is a group show from the Art Guild of Pacifica. And in the East Gallery, Galen Wolf: A Brush with History offers the history of our coastal area in the artworks of this artist. The public is invited to a free opening reception for all three shows on Friday, February 21, from 7 to 9 pm. Music will be provided by Pacifican pianist Michael Slaughter.

In addition, there are two free lecture events associated with these exhibits: Shannon Nottestad, Galen Wolf biographer and the curator for this exhibition of his work, will give a Curator Talk on Friday, February 28, at 7 pm. This event is part of LitWave, Pacifica’s literary festival, and will include a book signing and a reading from Wolf’s Legends of the Coastland.

On Sunday, March 30, at 4 pm (the last day of the exhibits), Main Gallery artist Pierre Merkl III and his exhibit curator DeWitt Cheng will talk about Merkl’s work. The public is also invited to attend this free event.

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.

Pierre Merkl III 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.

The Art Guild’s group exhibit of Portraits provides a perfect counterpoint and complement to Merkl’s incisive paintings. With the confluence of these two exhibits featuring portraits and paintings of people in general, the Sanchez Art Center will offer a panoply of ways of seeing ourselves.

Galen Wolf (1889–1976) is another individualist whose contributions to our cultural heritage are unique. Wolf was a writer and storyteller as well as a painter. He was a friend of John Muir and Jack London, and a true champion of the coastal lands. Galen Wolf: A Brush with History features selections from three mid-career series of his paintings. The first series presents California missions that Wolf painted in the mid-1930s. The second major series in Wolf’s art career centered on scenes from San Mateo County created while Wolf was employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. These paintings show the county’s changing landscape and way of life, including pieces on Filoli and other Peninsula estates as well as life on the rural coast. In the third series, which Wolf considered his best work, we see his beautiful and innovative “mosaic” style. This series includes illustrations for his book Legends of the Coastland, edited by Shannon Nottestad and published in 2012 by Luna Moon Press. Ms. Nottestad devoted 10 years to the painstaking research needed to put together this beautiful book, including working with the artist’s 1976 oral history and his many collected materials. Her work shines a light on the linkages between our coastside legends and folk tales, our oral and written histories, and the role and creative contribution of real-life hero-artist Galen Wolf.

After the February 21 opening night, the galleries are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm, through the exhibits’ 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. For more information, call 650-355-1894 or visit
Pierre Merkl III Featured at Sanchez Art Center February 21–March 30, 2014 Three new exhibits will open at Sanchez Art Center on February 21: Pierre Merkl III with Scenes, Schemes, and Genes (Skeins) brings his unique surrealist vision to the Main Gallery. Portraits in West Ga...
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