For over fifty years, Los Angeles-based artist Lee Mullican (1919–1998) created paintings and drawings of great beauty and almost shamanistic power. Drawing on interests and influences including Native American art, Surrealism, Byzantine icons, Paleolithic figures, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism, Mullican created abstractions that engage the eye, the mind, and the heart. As the artist himself put it, he sought to conjure “invented worlds” through his art.
Born in Oklahoma, Mullican first became interested in art as a child and subsequently studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. During a wartime stint in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mullican served as a topographical draftsman, working with aerial photographs which, with their dense patterning of vegetation, roads, and rivers, would have an enormous impact on his paintings. In 1957 Mullican moved to San Francisco and showed with the Dynaton Group, which included artists Wolfgang Paalen and Gordon Onslow Ford. Five years later, Mullican relocated to Southern California, where he taught at a number of schools, becoming a pillar of the Los Angeles art community and mentor to a host of younger artists. His painting evolved over the five decades of his career but continued to reflect the same concerns as his work of the 1950s. Ultimately, Mullican forged a unique style and place for himself as an artist. Eschewing the grandeur and heroicism of the Abstract Expressionists, he chose a quieter, more personal and introspective vocabulary to investigate both his inner world and the cosmos.
Lee Mullican: An Abundant Harvest of Sun presents approximately 70 paintings and works on paper as well as several sculptures. Although he has been acknowledged as an exemplar of “the postwar opening of the American mind,” this is the first major presentation in over twenty-five years and his first-ever solo museum show on the East Coast. Lee Mullican is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by curator Carol Eliel, Amy Gerstler, and Lari Pittman.