Merkin did graduate work in fine arts at Michigan State University and the Rhode Island School of Design after earning his B.F.A. at Syracuse University. Since 1970 he has served as an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, although he currently resides in New York City. In paintings, assemblages, and collages, Merkin conjures popular scenes fromAmerica of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, choosing subjects—from the Cotton Club to Mickey Mouse to Luna Park—that are witty, often eccentric, combinations of movie stars, sports heroes, and personal references. Although there is a realistic basis behind his themes, Merkin avoids descriptive handling of his subjects; instead, through cutout shapes and overlays of paint and line, he works toward formal balances and juxtapositions that belie the humor of his titles.
Virginia M. Mecklenburg Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)