Wise As A Stone And Steel Young

On a Friday night, Lindenstrasse 35 is a warren of tightly packed galleries connected by smoke-filled stairwells, peopled by swarming gallery-goers making their way from floor to floor, glass in hand. Amidst the contemporary art chaos, Konrad Fischer is an oasis of calm as Merrill Wagner’s “Stone and Steel” exudes a quiet strength and a well-earned aura of authenticity. 


Merrill_Wagner_04Some of Wagner’s stones. Photo: Chris Phillips


Wagner works with found steel plates, filing the textures of the surface of the steel, painting over the plates with monochrome greys and blues and then re-working the panels into stripey, modernist masterpieces. Having honed her craft over the course of a storied 60-year career, Wagner’s geometric combines radiate integrity. In a building full of hungry-would be art stars, much of the work at Lindenstrasse feels like it has something to prove. In a space uncomfortably reminiscent of high school, Konrad Fischer is safely post-graduate in its presentation of a contemplative, self-confident show dedicated to the formal principles of line, plane, plate and palette.


Merrill Wagner_02Wagner’s work. Photo: Chris Phillips


In addition to Merrill’s material explorations of the properties of plated steel, “Stone and Steel” also contains, perhaps unsurprisingly, stone-based floor-works. Like the pathways in a zen garden, stepping stones are carefully arranged on the floor at Konrad Fischer, bisected by chalk lines in simple geometric forms.


According to Ms. Wagner, “the link between the stone works and the paintings on steel is that I spend a great deal of time and effort choosing the stones and then arranging them before I paint them. And the steel panels too; I have to look at them for a very long time in order to find the two that I want to put together. They are all very different from each other and it takes some thinking before I know which two will become one work—before I actually get to thinking about the paint.”


Merrill Wagner_03Art lovers admiring Wagner’s work. Photo: Chris Phillips


The meditative qualities of Ms. Wagner’s process are palpable at the opening of “Stone and Steel.” The artist stands cheerfully in the corner, answering questions, guiding visitors through the space, offering to lie down amongst the stones for a photograph to accompany this story. Self-assured, strong and ever-so appealing, Ms. Wagner’s work, like the artist herself, truly stands the test of time.


  • Konrad Fischer– Merrill Wagner “Stone and Steel” – March 8 – April 20, 2013 – Tuesday – Friday: 11am-6pm, Saturday – 11am-2pm [Price of works: €3000]


Article by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch