new-york

Merrill Wagner

55 Mercer Street Cooperative

Merrill Wagner is a young artist who is trapped by her own sensibility. Clearly these extraordinary, refined examinations of pure surface—the vagrant textures of stretched canvas for example—or of the most delicate application of paint in near monochrome, attest to the power of her obsessive commitment. Moreover, they deal with a kind of fundamentalism which indicates that she is close in on the problem. This acuteness, which would have passed for prescience in 1967 or 1968—they bear relation to Agnes Martin or to Robert Ryman (whose own work may in fact be informed by evolutions in Merrill Wagner’s paintings)—is, in the present moment, at a kind of immobilization. If Merrill Wagner’s painting remains about sheer sensibility it is nowhere. Bluntly, the sobriety of presentation indicates a mentality which could easily opt for a stronger theoretical basis. I’m troubled by the fact that, when

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