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Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013

Mark Mulhern: The Quiet Man

Solitude and reflection at Museum of Wisconsin Art

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In a world where artists vie for attention, a world cluttered with clutter, it’s refreshing to spend time with the decidedly thoughtful paintings and drawings of Mark Mulhern. His current exhibition, “Pulling Back the Curtain” (through Dec. 1), is perfect for the ONE Gallery located in the new, wonderful wedge of white in West Bend, otherwise known as the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

It’s risky to posit that the central figure in many of his paintings is Mulhern the artist, revealing what it’s like to step inside of a canvas and stare out at the viewer. He inhabits a lonely world, a world of solitude, and dare I say that perhaps his innermost self fears that we won’t like what we see? There was a period in his long career when he

presented viewers with monotypes of slender bouquets. Initially, I felt they spoke of “interior decoration,” however, the bouquets retained elements of solitude. 

A master of his craft, a psychologist who strips away layers of possibilities, his figurative works, even those with multiple figures (pigeons, bouquets and Homo sapien bathers being one and the same) are caught in moments of gesture and the singular sense that all is temporary. Mulhern grasps that our moments and gestures will soon enough be erased. Life isn’t pretty; it’s depressing in the main, but the artist’s honesty elevates all to a place beyond, where erasure doesn’t matter. A quiet man with a message, I think he’s what all artists should be and often aren’t.

On Thursday, Oct. 10, at 6:30 p.m., he will further pull back the curtain during a gallery talk at the museum. People are curious about the innermost thoughts of artists, though I hope he doesn’t reveal too much, as his work, if you take the time to study his style, speaks for itself. Until Dec. 22, you can view more of his excellent offerings in the Haggerty Museum of Art’s exhibition “Current Tendencies III.”

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