Tanya Merrill “Woman Laughing Alone in the Woods at Night”

Half Gallery

poster for Tanya Merrill “Woman Laughing Alone in the Woods at Night”
[Image: Tanya Merrill "Man with Gun" (2020) Oil on linen 30 x 24 in.]

This event has ended.

Peter Schjeldahl once said “Looking at art is like, ‘Here are the answers. What were the questions?’ I think of it like espionage, ‘walking the cat back’—why did that happen, and that?—and eventually you come to a point of irreducible mystery.”

In Merrill’s work, an amorphous cast of characters time hop through art history, folklore and mythology. Let’s consider the curious composition of an 18th century gentleman cuddling his rifle as the world burns behind him. Contemporizing history, Tanya Merrill’s painting Man with Gun highlights a lustful embrace of firearms by scrolling back to the days of Second Amendment drafting. The figure’s excessive affection for his weapon eschews the macho pose of an NRA member for the love affair beneath it.

The influence of European art here is undeniable, from Rembrandt to Rubens to Fujita. In Saint Teresa in Ecstasy Merrill riffs on famous depictions of the same subject, revealing the saint topless yet donning her nun’s habit, both a comic and erotic extrapolation. Displaying her connection to the Dutch Golden Age, Merrill parodies the idea of female hysteria with parrots in full resplendence, a trope employed by 17th century masters Gerrit Dou and Caspar Netscher. Elsewhere, Merrill rattles our notions of memento mori in her disrupted still lifes, inviting a cat to feast on a long dead lobster. The fluttering line of Merrill’s brushstroke spares the gruesome from turning macabre, imbuing each picture with a vibration of animated delicacy.

Merrill questions human’s destructive need to conquer, from the prized taxidermy of nearly extinct game, to the wives in 18th century English countryside portraiture. Do the characters in Merrill’s work rage against the dying necessity of their presence in daily life (a horse now relegated to a role of decoration) or does the horse find itself face-to-face with Double Cowgirl in a stickup. Either way, Merrill allows the viewer to marvel at the splendor of the equine for one last canter.

Tanya Merrill (b. 1987, New York) received her MFA from Columbia in 2018. She has been in group exhibitions at Gagosian Gallery, NY; Almine Rech, London; and Unclebrother, Hancock, NY; and exhibited at FIAC, Paris in 2019 with Half Gallery. She lives and works in New York.



from February 29, 2020 to March 28, 2020

Opening Reception on 2020-02-29 from 18:00 to 20:00


Tanya Merrill

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