knud merrild

Knud Merrild (1894-1954) is known as the father of the flux painting technique, as well as an individualist in synthetic cubism and abstract surrealism. A true progressive in art and politics, Merrild was the first artist in California to create assemblages and co-founded the Los Angeles branch of the American Artists Congress in 1936. A Danish émigré to the United States, Merrild contributed greatly to the trajectory of United States Modernism prior to 1950, particularly in Los Angeles.

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Though Merrild was not purely a Surrealist or a Post-Surrealist, his work was easy to claim by such groups for it contained biomorphic and sexual images, as well as images of space, clouds, water, stones and nature. In addition, like the Surrealists, he employed non-traditional techniques and used unusual materials. His constructions incorporated housebuilding materials like wire, roofing paper, glass and scrap wood; his collages were made of magazine cutouts, wallpaper and fabric, and his watercolors were unusual with their undercoat of unevenly applied gesso, incised imagery, and top coat of wax. Merrild’s 1930s output consists primarily of paintings, some of which are highly built up with gesso or other material; gesso-wax watercolors; about a dozen constructions and three collages.

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In 1942, Merrild developed his technique of painting which he called “flux”, a process by which he alternatively poured, dripped or expelled paint from a dispenser onto a fluid surface. According to Merrild, “A natural consequence of the process is that orthodox tools are of little use, being replaced by gravitation. The paint is expelled at various distances, from zero to several feet above the surface–painting by remote control. The pattern created differs according to the velocity or gravitational force, and to the density or fluidity of the paint. The impact of the expelled paint with the fluid surface creates fissions or explosive eruptions, more or less violent, and the painting is set in motion in four dimensions. Mutations follow, lasting from seconds to several hours. When in motion, incessant mutations of color and form ensue, until arrested in a metaphor of its own Flux. Left alone, it becomes an automatic creation by natural law, a kinetic painting of the abstract.”

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