Upon visiting ‘Mapping the World’, I took in one of Mullican’s artist talks, which belong to a tradition of didactic performance art whose chief historical reference point is Joseph Beuys. Speaking at length, largely with closed eyes, Mullican makes a certain kind of sense. In the way a Sunday school teacher might explain theology after dropping a tab of acid, he expounds on the system of shapes and symbols that suffuses his world. In his installations, by contrast, he lets the grid operate as a surrogate sense-giver. Here, in 50 years’ worth of work arranged across the museum’s four floors, architectural and graphic structures provide a comforting impression of logical order to unending abstract patterns, automatic writing and vast accumulations of decontextualized photographic and cartoon imagery.
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