Rather than focusing on the physical art object, Matt Mullican’s body of work addresses how art functions for an individual and the society in which that individual lives.
Over the last thirty years, Matt Mullican developed an intricate framework through which our experience of reality can be dissected. In an enormous range of media, Mullican shows us the amorphous territories lying just below our daily operations. Each material becomes a context for examination of pure subjectivity, pure materiality, and everything in between. His production - from re-contextualized images to digital spaces to hypnosis performances - separate the layers of our belief structures, exposing reality as a product of the imagination. Notably, much of his recent work explores the persona which has emerged from the hypnosis performances. "That Person" is responsible for a set of works, which expose a more primary worldview and a more real self, capable of existing outside the authority of the physical world. Developed over a period of three decades, the works of Matt Mullican are now considered some of the most influential contributions contemporary art has seen in recent years: his oeuvre is both mysterious and clear, and remarkable for the myriad of media and materials used. Mullican’s range of media and forms of expression extend from fragile models and bulky sculptures, drawings, collages, light boxes, and computer animation to glasswork and textiles, videos, and performance.
Matt Mullican was born in Santa Monica, CA, in 1951. He received a BFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1974. Over the last several decades, his work has been shown extensively in galleries and museums in the U.S. and internationally, and is included in the permanent collections of many major museums including The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, MOCA Los Angeles, The Ludwig Museum, and The Pompidou Center. He has also completed a number of public and private commissions in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada.
Mullican’s works present perception as an interpretation of visual and tactile reality, his inventory of the present being invariably shot through with imagination on the one hand and recollection on the other. Mullican is at pains to lend the world order and structure and to do this he applies the method of the encyclopedia and the archive. In pursuit of this lifelong project, he has developed a system of pictograms as his personal model of a cosmology. Models play a crucial role in Mullican’s work, yet they serve more as a vehicle through which to convey the relationship between ideas and concepts than as pointers to larger realizations. Whereas we are accustomed to the use of models in architecture and science as a means of visualizing concrete projects, Mullican’s objects function as a means of elucidating ideas.
Since the seventies, Mullican has repeatedly had himself hypnotized and in this state has experienced and given expression to various facets of a – his? – personality. “Learning from that Person’s Work” has it’s origins in this process. The drawings, collages and video tapes shown with the sheets were produced while in a trance. When Mullican uses auto-suggestion to hypnotize himself and then begins drawing, he remembers the feelings, experiences, peculiarities and preferences of that person into whose consciousness – with professional help – he has been able to slip. Mullican does not know this person well, does not even know whether it is a man or a woman; all that he has to go on are certain characteristics and experiences, that we, too, apprehend upon entering that person’s “brain”: We discover an obsessive love of freshly ground hot coffee, for example, and passion for love songs and fast food, as the transcribed menus reveal. This “person” is representative of everyman and his or her world can be grasped using Mullican’s five world system. The symbols and colour codes used in this system are the keys to understanding the models: physical elements (pure matter: green), world unframed (the world of objects: blue), world framed (creative forces, the arts: yellow), signs/language (signs and concepts: black or white) and subjective (worldview: red). Mullican’s models almost always represent one or all of these five worlds.