John Yau reviews Merlin James: Paintings For Persons at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., on view through November 12, 2016.
Yau writes that James "gets at all sorts of feelings without ever locking them into a narrative. He doesn’t tell us how to read his paintings. He gives us that responsibility and, in that regard, he is a generous artist who trusts that we will respond to the work with a degree of reflection. At a time of over-sharing on social media, James makes paintings that are private but not closed off, not hermetic. The small factory, the passenger train rolling across a viaduct, and the woman depicted in profile all underscore that privacy, the sense of distance we feel from each other. And yet, private as these paintings are, the feelings they expose are as personal as any I have encountered in a work of art – the kind you don’t want to spell out because you are not even sure if you can."