Merrill Wagner - Biography | David Zwirner

Merrill Wagner

- Biography

Merrill Wagner was born in 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. She completed her BA at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, in 1957 and studied painting at the Art Students League, New York, training under figurative painters Edwin Dickinson, George Grosz, and Julian Levi, from 1959 until 1963. 

Early solo exhibitions of Wagner’s work were held at the artist-run cooperative 55 Mercer, New York (1970, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1977), followed by presentations at P.S. 1, Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Long Island City, New York (1978), and The Clocktower, Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Long Island City, New York (1979). 

More recent solo exhibitions include those held at Art Resources Transfer, New York (2002), which featured a catalogue with an interview with the artist by Ann Messner and William S. Bartman and an essay by Lilly Wei; Looking at the Land, which originated at William Paterson College, Wayne, New Jersey (2006), and traveled to the University of Rhode Island, Kingston (2007), which was accompanied by a catalogue featuring texts by Nancy Einreinhofer and Judith Tolnick Champa; Northern Columbia Community and Cultural Center, Benton, Pennsylvania (2011); New York Studio School (2016), which was accompanied by a catalogue featuring essays by Tiffany Bell, Naomi Spector, Robert Storr, Lilly Wei, and John Yau; and Landscapes of Colour/Landschaften der Farbe, Grosse Kunstschau, Worpswede, Germany (2019).

Wagner’s work has also been included in significant group exhibitions, including Blurring Boundaries: The Women of American Abstract Artists, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2018); Minimal Difference: Selected Work by Women Artists 1960s–1970s, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, New York (2018); and Postwar Women, The Art Students League of New York (2019).

Wagner has published a number of artist books documenting her long-term and site-specific projects, including Notes on Paint (1990), which was awarded the Certificate of Excellence by the AIGA Book Show 1990 (1991) and the Northwest Design Award (1992); Time and Materials (1994); Oil and Water (2002); and Public/Private (2004). 

She is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Grant (1989); Hassam Purchase Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters (2002); Andrew Carnegie Prize, National Academy of Design (2006); and the Academy Award in Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006). Her work can be found in prominent museum collections, including Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague, the Netherlands; Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; Tacoma Art Museum, Washington; Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Wagner lives and works in New York. 

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