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Matt Mullican

We are pleased to be able to present in our gallery two new groups of work by the New York artist Matt Mullican (b. 1951 Santa Monica). The Mai 36 Galerie has represented the artist since 1988.

In his new exhibition Matt Mullican is juxtaposing in both the main rooms of the gallery two groups of work that at first sight appear to be completely different.

With the first can be seen a new series of lightboxes. They appear as a consistent and radical development of his earlier stills that showed artificial landscapes produced with a computer programme. The new lightboxes make us aware of even more variable atmospheric conditions. Matt Mullican selected them from a standard set of choices for the production of atmospheric values and their insertion into computer-generated landscapes. These default atmospheres, standardised models for various relationships between air, light and humidity should with normal use immerse the constructed artificial landscape in a particular atmosphere and lend the volume of the image, put together from individual elements, a larger spatial unity that is not only geometrically convincing. However in the place of the actual landscape Mullican inserts only a neutral grey ground. The light, air and humidity values of the computer-generated atmospheres thus become the autonomous content of the work. Their lack of substance contrasts with the objective presentation in the lightbox and on a figurative level counters its general availability through the new possibilities of computer animation. However, the visual fascination that radiates from these images does not only feed off its paradoxical logical structure. It is also sustained by a tension that exists because these images appear simultaneously trivial and sublime, high and low. They have at once an austere beauty and are completely hokey.

The group of lightboxes is expanded by a video of a digital landscape by the artist that concerns the appearance and disappearance of various cityscapes and opens up Mullican’s world of images to movement and therefore to a temporal dimension.

The second group of images in the exhibition consists of photographs and objects that Mullican made under hypnosis during one of his performances and likewise selected and grouped when in a state of trance. They record the artist’s obsessive relationship to his immediate environment in a hypnotic condition. In this condition the artist appears to appropriate the various objects – such as clothes, his own body, table, bed, food etc – on the one hand in an immediate and extremely direct way; but on the other hand they

appear to have symbolic, even magical significance and can in many ways during the process of the trance change in terms of their meaning for the artist. A video also made under the condition of trance concerns the same obsessions and records the extremely affective relationship of the artist with his surroundings when operating in a state of trance.

The emotional quality and directness of these images contrasts with the abstract, cool atmosphere of the lightboxes. The opposition of these two artistic means of expression that are fundamental for Mullican’s work points to a problem that comes latently to fruition in all Mullican’s work: the question of how possible it is to convey inside and outside as well as the relationship of perception and projection in the experience and construction of reality. The question concerning the relationship between fiction and reality and the role played by the processual imagination in the determination of these two relations is in Mullican’s work experienced as a pressing existential question. [Text: Iris Wien, Translation: Felicity Lunn]

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