“I have a feeling that everything I do will find its place. I’m an optimist as far as that goes.”
Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to present a groundbreaking exhibition of paintings and computer-generated works by Lee Mullican (1919-1998). In the gallery’s seventh show by the artist, projections of Mullican’s digital works will be displayed in their native digital format for the first time alongside a selection of the artist’s paintings from 1966-1985. By pairing Mullican’s digital works with his canvases, Computer Joy explores the links among Mullican’s innovations in mid-century painting, his computer based inventions of the 1980s, and developments in 21st century digital technology.
Continuing Mullican’s pioneering spirit, the Estate of Lee Mullican is pleased to make available a selection of Mullican’s digital works as NFTs. Minted in collaboration with Verisart, the NFTs will be offered exclusively to gallery clients prior to their public launch on Opensea.
In the mid-1980s at the age of 67, Lee Mullican, best known for his linear palette knife technique, began working with UCLA’s Program for Technology in the Arts to explore how this signature painting style might translate to the emerging digital imaging technology of the day. The possibilities new technology afforded, paired with Mullican’s advanced painting practice, resulted in spectacularly buzzing dense digital compositions of complex color palettes and illusions of depth.
Mullican found inspiration in the similarities between his painting style and a computerized matrix, particularly the dark background paintings he began to produce in the late 1970s: “I examined why I thought the computer was for me. Even in my paintings, I was always working with pattern and line and color. I’ve had a built-in computer ever since I’ve been doing art.” Replacing his brush and signature palette knife striations with a clickable mouse and pen-like stylus, Mullican was able to merge the late Surrealist method of automatism with the computer’s instant and precise replication of marks. He stated “I found that beyond what one thought, the computer as being hard-lined, analytical, and predictable, it was indeed a medium fueled with the automatic, enabled by chance, and accident to discover new ways of making imagery.”
Lee Mullican, along with Wolfgang Paalen and Gordon Onslow Ford, was known as a member of “the Dynaton.” This group of artists, named after the Greek word for “the possible,” acted as a bridge between the European Surrealist and American Abstract Expressionist schools. Disbanding shortly after its seminal exhibition in 1951 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Dynaton explored the subconscious mind, mysticism, automatism, and the influences of ancient cultures. Mullican remained true to these ideals but went on to develop his own personal style and imagery.
Lee Mullican was born in 1919 in Chickasha, Oklahoma and died in Los Angeles in 1998. Upon his graduation from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1942, Mullican was drafted into the army, serving four years as a topographical draughtsman before moving to San Francisco in 1946. After winning a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959, he spent a year painting in Rome before returning to Los Angeles where he joined the UCLA Art Department in 1961, keeping his position for nearly 30 years. He divided the later part of his life between his homes in Los Angeles and Taos, traveling internationally and co-organizing exhibitions at UCLA. A retrospective spanning fifty years of the artist’s work was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2005.
His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.