Mullican, Mullican

Slaven_1 Jessica Slaven in Paper Momument:

Matt Mullican bears the consummate art-insider’s pedigree: his father, Lee Mullican, is a well-respected painter; he attended the California Institute of the Arts in the 70s and studied with John Baldessari; he participated in Documentas IX and X and was shown in the 2008 Whitney Biennial; he has excellent gallery representation and an impressive critical bibliography; he even has an artwork commissioned in black granite in the 50th Street subway station in New York City. In the summer of 2005, he was invited to be a Visiting Artist at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine, where he lectured on his life’s work—from his earliest student experiments, through his seminal sculptures and installations of the 80s, up to new drawings and video-taped performances from “Learning from That Person’s Work,” an exhibition he’d just mounted at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.

I was there. His lecture turned out to be the surprise controversy of the summer at Skowhegan, where our cohort was rumored to have been the most professional and well behaved in recent memory. Before you cock an eyebrow, remember that 2005 was perhaps the historical apex of the American MFA system, which excelled at producing refined and competent young artists ready to meet and greet the contemporary art world. Back then, it paid to be affable and business-like; it was a time to be on your insider-y best behavior.

Charming and gracious in person, Matt Mullican has been performing and lecturing for nearly thirty years, and by now it’s often difficult to distinguish the two activities.