Thom Merrick

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Thom Merrick
Born (1963-01-01) January 1, 1963 (age 54)
Sacramento, California
Nationality American
Education San Francisco Art Institute
Known for Painting, Sculpture

Thom Merrick (January 1, 1963, in Sacramento, California) is an American artist. He attended the San Francisco Art Institute, and emerged in the mid 1980s, represented by pioneer gallerists Colin de Land (b. 1955–2003) and Pat Hearn (b. 1955 - d. 2000) in New York City. He exhibited throughout Europe, represented by the prominent minimalist art dealer and collector Rolf Ricke, in Cologne, and by the conceptual, Galerie Susanna Kulli, in St. Gallen, among others.

Thom Merrick is known for creating formally challenging works in different media with a keen awareness of art history. Making a name for himself early in his career, he created works, paintings, sculpture and installations, by reacting to the immediate environment with industrial materials and simplified forms, or whatever material was at-hand. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s he created his works on-site, in situ to the exhibition hall. These works aim to break down the boundary of artistic identity, production and requisite classifications. In short, Thom Merrick’s art is uncanny—he creates spare and non-repetitive works that are abbreviated; each part reveals a complex code of a contemporary art practice, that is self-critical, adjudicating what is and is not.[1]



Paintings dated after 1987 mix art history with religious, philosophical or spiritual references, where the subject is revealed through a number of works. Merrick’s works can appear unrelated and could be mistakenly seen as though they were created by different artists altogether, this attribute is by no means random or casual; the subject is destruction of artistic identity and standard practices. He does this, paradoxically, by easel painting with subtle references that are unabashedly beautiful on the surface, however, the meaning is often predicated on catastrophe and/ or emptiness.


Example: “Desert” is a sculpture from 1990 where Merrick dismantled a Triumph chopper motorcycle and displayed it on the floor of a gallery, with the greatest distance sought between each of the parts, until the floor was evenly covered. The work commented on the word “Triumph” and the literary practice of “deconstruction.” The object of contemplation, the motorcycle, in atomized state represents a terrain where freedom from social and religious persecution is historically minimized: the desert. The work also takes a humble stab at the “readymade” practice: Merrick’s intervention is represented by hand-tools, in this instance the tools and toolbox can be the palette and brush. The “readymade” is then “unmade” and represented as a landscape or environment.


Example: “Composition Blue and White” and “Composition Green and White”1998, are inflatable works about painting. Merrick installed mammoth dinosaur shapes, into the exhibition space, in this instance, takes aim at the viewer, the viewer can’t back up to see the image. The doorframe and the oversized color inside, then block the entrance to the exhibition. The dinosaurs made from huge colored containers signify the painting as a sack or the brush stroke, (or just air: nothing.) The white gallery is the canvas or perhaps the modern cave. These works overtake the social space and the area of contemplation. The work is better seen bit by bit, only the bright color of the material and the white of the gallery walls are visible, making the work about color and scale and doubt. The dinosaur image can be seen as an institutional critique where the walls of power and history close the artist in, making the artist domesticated, alien and impotent and eventually obsolete and extinct.


Examples: Paintings created in a performance mode, (hitchhiking with canvas and colors, using gestural paintings to procure a ride, “Road Works” Switzerland, 1996.) Other groups of paintings inform or mirror significant steps or themes made during his travels or installation output “StairTrip” performance, Switzerland 1998. Art Writing: Language considerations evident in Thom Merrick’s work (“Handwritten Wall Reliefs,” John Gibson Gallery, New York, 1997) that point to critical thinking, however the language is in relation to painting and has a dual poetic function. (As if the artist were to speak the meaning of a work, there would be no need for art.) These works, utter spare performance type instructions “Speak the Truth / Sleep / Under Bridges,” either to be carried out by the artist or viewer, are made with large scale copper tubing lengths, where he shapes the material into large-scale written work that hang on the white wall of the gallery like huge notes. The creation of these works is part performance, he uses his whole body and the corners of the exhibition room as a template to bend the heavy material, ironically the results are recognizably similar to the artist’s hand-writing.



„Documenta 9", Kassel, Edition Cantz, 1992 „Nur 72 Stunden", Die Wandelhalle, Forum für Kunst, Köln, 1992 „Im Rahmen der Ausstellung – Künstlergespräch mit Thom Merrick", engl., Edition Galerie Susanna Kulli, St.Gallen, 1996 „donald baechler, matthew mc.caslin, rachel khedoori, thom merrick, martin puryear, kathleen schimert, hanne tierney, jason rhoades", Stiftelsen Wanas Utställningar, Wanas Foundation, Knislinge, 1996 „Stilleben – Nature morte – Natura morta – Still life" Carte Blanche von Adrian Schiess, Helmhaus, Zürich, 1997 „Thom Merrick", Interventionen 8, Sprengel Museum Hannover, 1997 „504", ein Ausstellungsprojekt der Klasse John M Armleder, Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Braunschweig, 1997 „I love New York", Crossover der aktuellen Kunst, Museum Ludwig, Köln, Verlag DuMont, 1999 „Transfert: Kunst Im Urbanen Raum" Art dans l’espace Urban, Biel, 2000 „Le Fou dedoube / The Split Personality Madman" Château d’Oiron, France, La Société des collectionneurs d’Art Contemporain, Moscow, 2000 2005 Yves Aupetitallot, Private View 1980-2000: Collection Pierre Huber, JRP/Ringier


  1. ^ Elger, Dietmar (1997). On Thom Merrick's Work. Hannover: Cantz Verlag. p. 16. ISBN 3-89322-406-8.