In Gravity and Whispers, an exhibition of recent paintings and prints by Betty Merken, the Seattle artist continues to explore color, structure and gesture, while also breathing new life into her vernacular as an abstract painter and printmaker. This show presents large and medium scale canvases and a range of color field monotypes. Merken’s paintings recall and distill colors and surfaces she has recorded with gouache and digital photography during fellowships in Italy. She is inspired by what she calls “accidental paintings” that she discovers on Italian walls, with their layers of faded frescoes and weather drips and stains, all accumulated and built up over decades and centuries. She notes that “the properties of paint are inexhaustible, with vast ranges of density, transparency, opacity, and flexibility, and I am driven in my studio practice to investigate, to understand, and to invent…images that reflect my sensibilities and vision.” The work that results from Merken’s artistic practice are lush and captivating, with wide swaths of color, punctuated by drips and distilled geometric forms, all coalescing to create paintings and prints that entice viewers in and offer rich rewards.
Betty Merken lives and works in Seattle, Washington. She is a painter and printmaker whose abstract geometric monotypes and paintings recall the early Modernist works of Piet Mondrian and the work of American artists such as Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko, often echoing freedoms of painterly gesture pioneered by the Abstract Expressionists. Her work can be found in several galleries and in numerous private and public collections in the United States, Asia, and Europe, and in the permanent collections of several major museums, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon. Merken has been honored with fellowships from the BAU Institute and the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy. She is the co-author, with Stefan Merken, of Wall Art, Megamurals and Supergraphics (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1987).