Combining large oil on linen paintings with more intimate graphite on paper works, State of the Union will be Martin Mull’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery.
Peeling back the veneer of collective perception, Mull’s images offer a glimpse through the cracks in the quintessential postwar “American experience.” Navigating a deeply psychological terrain with satire, dark humor, melancholy, and mid-century cultural reference, Mull’s new images are held together by formalist concerns of painting and traditional picture-making. Rockwellian at a glance, Mull’s vignettes are moody fusions of displaced characters, culled from period-specific popular magazines, found family snapshots, and vintage nudist publications.
This exhibition is Mull’s first to feature a full suite of graphite drawings alongside his paintings. While the cast of figures and settings overlap – trapeze artists, salary men, matrons, nudes, and wholesome teenagers, the two distinct mediums tell subtly different stories. The light, gestural, momentary glance of graphite on paper hints and jokes, while in the oil paintings an eerie chiaroscuro merges with a restrained paint-by-numbers abstraction to create studied, brooding narrative tableaux.
Cast here in grisaille tones with varying levels of collage-like photorealism and pictorial singularity, Mull’s scenes explore the uncanniness of hindsight to reveal a convoluted sense of nostalgia. In Mull’s words, the works convey a sense of comfort that is then betrayed, as if to say: ‘It’s safe, come on in.’ Then you hear the door slam behind you.”