Since the 1970s, Matt Mullican’s multi-media artistic practice has been concerned with signification, representation and knowledge systems. Mullican investigates how signifying processes function and how objects become charged with meaning. This has led him to establish his own subjective 5-part classification system, which he calls his “theory of the five worlds”. In this cosmology, each colour corresponds to different levels of perception: green stands for material, blue for the everyday world, yellow for ideas, white and black for language and red for the subjective. This non-verbal language system of signs and pictograms is the common thread throughout his work, which ranges in media across painting, sculpture, drawing and photography, to film, neon, stained glass works, rubbings, installation and also performance.
Mullican’s work not only questions the nature of reality and the universal order’s perceived truths, but also highlights the “constructed-ness” of our world. Similarly, he explores unconscious perception and interpretation through hypnotherapy, at times undergone with an audience as a public performance. In this way, his artistic practice can be regarded as an attempt to provide alternative models for explaining the world and our existence.
Mullican is considered a member of the “Pictures Generation” and rose to fame in the early 1980s alongside his contemporaries Cindy Sherman, David Salle and Robert Longo, to name a few. The artist has been the subject of many solo shows and retrospectives, namely at the MAC’s – Musée des Arts Contemporains, Grand-Hornu, Belgium (2020); Thomas Schütte Stiftung, Neuss/Holzheim, Germany (2019); de Young Museum, San Francisco (2019); Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (2018); Kunstmuseum Winterthur (2016); Camden Arts Centre, London (2016); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2013); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2011); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2005); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1997) and many more. His work is found in numerous international public and private collections, notably the MoMA, New York, Tate Modern, London, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Haus der Kunst, Munich, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.