Lilies and Parable: Jack Mernin

Trotter&Sholer is pleased to present Lilies and Parable, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Jack Mernin. The pieces in this exhibition were created with an attention to space and scale. Mernin’s work embraces ambiguity and direct experience. This phenomenological approach to making art yields expressive, immediate, and layered compositions that aim to vibrate viewers out of their automatized concerns.


Parable of a Watchman in Love is Mernin’s largest painting to date. A muralesque painting of 18 feet, the canvas fuses disparate moods, languages, and timeframes, amounting to a kind of summary of Mernin’s practice. The imposing, imbalanced composition reads from left to right— and back again. The eye is pulled along sharp, dancing shapes that are carved among carefully rendered pages and studio ephemera. In a surprising move, Mernin inserted a to-scale depiction of a 2016 painting titled Tryst, blurring tenses and invoking memory, with an emphasis on pictorial distinctions that shift due to their relationship with time.


The paintings are created through a process of layering of spontaneous composition. In many of these pieces Mernin uses an imposing black to obscure some areas of the visual field, calling attention to shape, form, color, and composition. He juxtaposes representational moments with abstraction, complicating any initial interpretation. Mernin’s works demonstrate confidence and a willingness to be vulnerable and take personal risk.


Contrasting the gravity of Parable of a Watchman in Love is a series of intimate Lily paintings. Mernin plays with ideas of cliché and romance by placing a flower motif in different scenarios that were suggested by the process of painting itself. In a sense the Lily is a non-thing, yet it was personified for Mernin during the painting process. Mernin’s interest in unmeaning is in tension with his subject and the very idea of parable. Striking and silly, this exhibition risks explicitness that favors narrative interpretation, overturning Mernin’s previous interest in visual language that refuses to speak. Common to Mernin’s irreverent, yet deeply serious practice is an unraveling of past biases and perspectives resulting in a playful, invigorating spirit which encourages the viewer to dream in broad daylight.


Mernin currently divides his time between New York City and Belleville, PA, straddling contrasting urban and rural American settings that determine the kind of work he is able to produce. Stretches of time in the city observing, socializing, and engaging, are counterpoised by long periods of focused isolation in his remote barn studio. Lilies and Parable marks his second solo exhibition with Trotter&Sholer.


Lilies and Parable will be on view at 168 Suffolk Street through December 11, 2021.