Matt Mullican
USA, 1951
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Matt Mullican belongs to a group of American artists known as the Pictures Generation. Figures associated with the group include David Salle, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, and other artists whose work is based on deconstructing and reinterpreting media images as a way of critically exploring reality. In an effort to understand the process of representing the world, Mullican uses a wide variety of formats: performances, drawings, paintings, banners, tapestries, stained glass panels, murals, reliefs, light boxes, posters, computer-generated films, maps, diagrams, architectural models, collections of objects, bulletin boards with photographs and news, texts and poetry, and so on. For the artist, the world is a construction, a system of signs that are always the product of a social process. The artist offers us systems for interpreting the world, models of understanding, possible interfaces that hold out the prospect of a better and more complete knowledge of the reality that surrounds us. Images exist through their representations, their imaginary projections, so there is no dividing line between objects and ideas; both belong to the same context. Neither can fiction, art, fantasy, or even emotions be separated from the real; they form part of the same symbolic universe. Mullican’s world is made up of relationships. Words, things, objects, and ideas are surfaces on which to temporarily inscribe meanings that are open to being translated and transformed. The signs and symbols created by the artist are intended to perform a specific function: they constitute a pictographic alphabet that carries information that is encrypted, but which we understand as part of a cultural continuum. Cosmologies are one of the forms of organisation most frequently used by the artist. Constantly present from the start of his career, they are manifested in his characteristic visual language, which is based on simple geometric structures derived from basic forms like the triangle, the circle, and the square. His cosmologies are inspired by plans for modern cities and urbanisms rooted in utopian rationality, or by industrial designs, whose regularity is the basis of their technical efficacy. They allow Mullican to create a ‘system’: a method he can apply to understand his world and take a position in it. His cosmologies are always structured in five ‘levels’. The upper level, in red, corresponds to the subjective, pure meaning, the unconscious and spiritual aspects of existence. The lower level, in green, is associated with the elements, pure physics, inert matter. The middle level is occupied by man and the contexts that frame his existence; the arts, history, science, and religion—all represented by the colour yellow—are the bridge between the subject and the object. The world, in blue, is everyday experience, shaped by the city, buildings, and people. Finally, language, in black, arises as an intensified reality that becomes detached, abstract, and self-sufficient. The world as experience, information as transfer, and architecture as an interface—these are the three key issues Mullican focuses on in his work. His cosmologies, like the transcendent metaphysical systems on which theologies and religions are usually based, seek to confront the possibility of an ordered way of thinking with the contingency and emotion of everyday life in the understanding that experience unfolds precisely in this struggle. His technological modelling, based on rationality and geometric order, also presents us with a refuge, a way of giving in to the terror occasioned by the collapse of reality.
Núria Enguita

Artworks by the artist included in the Collection Artworks by the artist included in the Collection

  • Untitled / 1992

  • Untitled / 1992

  • Untitled / 1992

  • Untitled (Steamship Cutaway) / 1986