Twenty-three miles past downtown LA, but just a short distance off of the 10, Patrick Merrill Fine Art, is within an industrial warehouse area in Covina. Unglamorous but affordable this location seems to fit Patrick, his work and his ideologies about printmaking.
Patrick, a native Southern Californian, first dabbled in printmaking in high school. And after completing a tour of duty in Vietnam, he quickly returned to both. His first college class, a screen-printing class at Golden West College left a life-long impression as his instructor’s words “Graphics should kick you in the teeth” seem to be the cornerstone of Patrick’s personal work and his approaches to working with artists as a master printer as he strives for intensity and quality in both.
With a thorough understanding of the history of printmaking and the ability to look at it in an objective and critical way, Patrick utilizes the media in different modes. Using his skills as a master printer, he creates, under a variety of pseudonyms, large editions of hand-pulled botanical and other bland prints for interior decorators and art consultants. Cleverly demanding that he is paid up front, he creates these prints solely as product while also removing himself from the fickleness of the market.
For his own work Patrick makes huge prints, proving his prowess as a printer and taking his images to a new level as his figures confront the viewer in a life size scale allowing the graphics to literally kick the viewer in the teeth. Here you see one of my students standing next to one of Patrick’s blocks and a portion of the completed print on the wall at the far left of the slide. Patrick is not afraid of presenting political issues in his work and he does so with a complex and sophisticated voice that reflects back on the political and democratic history of printmaking. The work is visually intricate filled with metaphor and allegory giving a reading that is dense and lush.
As a master printer, Patrick is interested in working with artists who want to engage printmaking in a way that extends past simply making multiples and who are open to collaborating on a variety of levels. Process is akin to play for me and while it has its place I don’t see it as serious art. He states “I place content before form. I ask that the formal structures support and inform the narrative especially when that narrative is the formal structures itself. I want to be caught up in a dialogue with the artist. I want to be intrigued.”
He has had a long relationship as working as a printer for the artist Michael Woodcock. Here a multicolor lithograph titled Short Pencils. These pieces are invested with craft and intention and have a personal shrine-like quality focused in a simple pop-like composition. They seem to present a sly comment on the history of the printed image and its ability to give honor and meaning to mundane objects.
Recently Patrick has worked with Alexandra Grant producing this etching, Nimbo. His interest in working with Alexandra springs from what he refers to as her hybrid practice, and how she moves fluidly between two and three-dimensional medias and the potential and seeing how she will continue this further in the printed form. I find it interesting in talking with Pat how he emphasized the power of words and their affect, something that Alexandra may be toying with in her work.
Forty miles of freeway exist between the presses of John Greco in Santa Monica and Patrick Merril in Covina. It does not seem like a lot, but in traveling them the change in climate, architecture, and environment is strikingly obvious. These two men like everyone else who I have presented in this paper operate their presses in their own portion of LA and in their own way. They are all different, but all seem focused on moving ahead and keeping the presses running.