Carrie Haddad Gallery is pleased to present “Richard Merkin: His Favorite Things”, a solo exhibit featuring defining selections from the estate of the celebrated American painter, illustrator, and arts educator, Richard Merkin (1938 - 2009). Merkin’s portfolio is a prolific survey of American art, music, literature and sports spanning four decades from the 1960’s through the 2000’s. The show will be on view March 12th through April 19th with an opening reception on Saturday, March 14th from 6-8pm. All are welcome to attend.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Merkin's studio was located on Broadway and 80th Street where he lived for 69 years, loving his urban playground with a fierce passion. His persona was as stylized as his paintings. Adorned in custom suits, bowler hats, with a large moustache and big booming voice, Merkin merged his role as a flaneur and socialite with his integrity as an artist and journalist.
Merkin was first commissioned by The New Yorker Magazine in 1988 to illustrate profiles of celebrities and prominent figures prevalent in the arts and cultural arenas. This collaboration proved a perfect match for Merkin, coinciding with his personal fascination of people and history. An avid reader, each painting is the product of extensive research; an exploration of the subject’s unique contribution to the world be it music, writings or political influence. The author Tom Wolfe writes, “The typical Merkin picture takes legendary American images-from baseball, the movies, fashion, Society, tabloid crime and scandal-and mixes them with his own autobiography, often with dream-style juxtapositions." The result after 20 years of commissions is 400 works on 30 x 22 inch, thick Arches paper with handmade pastels illustrating the most notorious people in American pop culture.
This exhibit is inspired by a collection of paintings that illustrate Merkin’s favorite fancies: clothing, sex, baseball, celebrities, and the aesthetic of city life. The recurring motifs found in his large oil paintings of cigarettes, nude women, black freighters, the number 5 as painted by Charles Demuth, and a black and white terrier named Fiorello leave a trail of breadcrumbs to clue the viewer into these personal obsessions.
Richard Merkin’s energy and desire for challenge spread like wildfire. He shared this in his classroom at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he was a professor for 42 years starting in 1963. Students remember his enthusiasm, flirtatious personality, love of jokes, outrageous style and eccentric preferences. Richard Merkin also had several successful exhibits at Terry Dintenfass Gallery at a time when the New York art scene was still embracing figurative work. Regular contributions to Haper’s Bazaar and GQ Magazine kept Merkin’s influence in mainstream media for several decades. His work is also currently represented in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian Institution and the Whitney Museum.