Mark Mulhern

Mark Mulhern

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Mark Mulhern

Artist Bio

 

BORN 1951, Portage, WI

One of the top figurative artists working today, Mark Mulhern portrays people and everyday objects in their surroundings. Carefully positioned figures appear natural as they exchange subtle gazes and implicit gestures. Liberated from detail, these paintings expose moments of everyday life that tap into the viewer’s mind. Complementing the expressiveness of the figurative works are the artist's simplified abstractions of shape, color and the containment of light.

Since childhood, Mark Mulhern always knew he wanted to be an artist. Today he is a well-known painter and printmaker living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1973, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and later studied in Paris with S. W. Hayter from 1976-77. He then returned to Wisconsin and earned a Master of Fine Arts from UW-Madison in 1978. He became an instructor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1980.

He realized success early in his career after participating in solo and group exhibitions in Milwaukee, Chicago and New York. He lived briefly in New York but returned to Milwaukee preferring the slower pace and affordability even though it put him at a distance from the center of the art world. However, he has continued to be included in important exhibitions featuring nationally known artists.

Mulhern’s early expressionistic works were largely autobiographical, reflecting the inner turmoil of his life. The large figurative paintings were executed in bold colors with dreamlike discordant imagery. He said, “The figures in my work are caught in subtle gestures that suggest introspection and states of being.”  In later years his paintings have become more cheerful, featuring simplified figures and floral subject matter describing moments in everyday life. He also uses monotype as a medium, creating large prints from paintings on glass.

He has received numerous awards including a Wisconsin Arts Board Grant in 1990 and the Mary L. Knoll Fellowship Wisconsin Arts Board Grant in 2003. He is represented in numerous private and museum collections in Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Paris and the Czech Republic.

 

Artist’s Statement

 

My work deals with the human figure and temporality. The figures in my work are caught in subtle gestures that suggest introspection and unselfconscious states of being. I want the viewer to identify with the figure through an empathetic relationship with the gesture. The isolation of the figure in the field is meant to focus the viewer on the subtle language of the body and limit the visual information to its greatest simplicity. Like the experience of a traveler in a foreign culture whose language skills are not proficient, I want the viewer's sensitivity to body language to heighten for the sake of connection.

The field the figures occupy plays an important role in the way the paintings resonate. The field acts as both a container and a membrane or veil through which the figure emerges or recedes. For the most part, the field is neutral and atmospheric, made up of layer after layer of thinly applied paint. The push/pull process of working the figure into the right location enriches the surface and creates the emotional tone of the work. I am trying to make very slow paintings that require and reward patient looking. They are made slowly and work on the viewer over time, revealing nuance slowly. The moment fixed on the canvas is transitory, quiet and reflective of our temporary condition.

I choose to paint because of the fullness of the process. It involves my imagination at a deep and mysterious level, while remaining a very physical activity that involves all kinds of motions from stretching the canvas to applying the paint. It is this loving and intimate gesture of applying paint that appeals to me most. The types of marks that are possible from this activity of decision making are endless. The risks, erasures, revisions and resolutions that go into the work are layered in its strata. The end result is the sum of this history. I want my paintings to speak to this process and also to speak to the history of painting. As a subject, the figure has been there from the beginning. It has been used to express conditions that require identification on a human level. I am using the figure because I want to connect with this figure. I want to empathize and become this figure for the duration of the painting. I want to know what the figure is feeling through an empathetic connection in my own body. It is my responsibility as an artist to provide this opportunity for the viewer and to be able to organize events in the painting so that the viewer may have a meaningful experience.

 

Curriculum Vitae

EDUCATION

1978 M.F.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison 1976-77 Studied in Paris with S.W. Hayter
1973 B.F.A., Layton School of Art, Milwaukee, WI


SELECTED GRANTS AND AWARDS

2014 Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award
2011 The Alfred & Trafford Klots International Artist's Residency, Brittany, France 2004 Mary L. Nohl Fellowship 
Wisconsin Arts Board Project Grant 1992 Wisconsin Arts Board Project Grant 1984 Chicago Union League, Chicago, IL 
1977 Rotary International, Atelier 17, Paris, France

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 

2020 “Gatherings,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2018 “Mostly People,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2016 “The Space Between,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2014 “New Works,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 
“Pulling Back the Curtain,” Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, WI
2013 "Current Tendencies III: Artists from Milwaukee," Haggerty Museum of Art, 
Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
2011 “New Work,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2008 “New Paintings,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2007 “Arrivals & Departures,” Corbertt vs. Dempsey Gallery, Chicago, IL 2005 "Cats and Dogs," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2004 “New Work,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 
“Palmbeach4”, Palm Beach, FL through Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2004 "Mary Nohl Fellowship Award Show," INOVA Galleries, Milwaukee, WI 2002 “People, Places and Things,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2001 “Monotypes,” Olsen Larsen Gallery, Des Moines, IA
“Monotype Portraits,” Quad Graphics, Sussex, WI
“Monotype Portraits,” Wendy Cooper Gallery, Madison, WI 2000 Judith Rocht Gallery, Chicago, IL
1998 “Monotype Portraits,” Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL 1997 Tory Folliard Gallery,       Milwaukee, WI
1996 Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
1994 “The Delicate Prey,” Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
1993 Percival Gallery, Des Moines, IA
1992 Peltz Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
1989 Natasha Nicholson Gallery, Madison, WI 1987 Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 1986 Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
Struve Gallery, Chicago, IL
1985 Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York, NY
1984 Frumkin/Struve Gallery, Chicago, IL

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2021 “Wallflowers,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI (upcoming) 2020 “The Dog Show,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2019 “Nature Morte,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2018 “30th Anniversary Exhibition,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2017 “The Salon Show,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2016 “Wallflowers,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2015 “The Salon Show,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2014 "Summer in Wisconsin," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2013 “Current Tendencies”, Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI
"25th Anniversary Exhibition," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
"Contemporary Prints," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2011 "Summer in Wisconsin," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2010 “Apple Pie: Symbols of Americana in MMoCA's Permanent Collection”,
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, WI
2009 “Figurative Prints: 1980s Rewind”, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI 2009 “From One, Many: Contemporary Wisconsin Prints”, Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, WI
“Summer in Wisconsin”, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2008 “20th Anniversary Exhibition”, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2006 “Collector’s Series I,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2005 "Wisconsin Arts Board Award Show," Wisconsin Academy Gallery, Madison, WI
Sherry Leedy, Kansas City, MO
“Palmbeach3,” Palm Beach, FL through Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI 2003 “Art Chicago,” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
“People, Places, and Things,” Crossman Gallery, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater 
2002 “Wisconsin Triennial”, Madison Art Center, Madison, WI “Art Chicago”, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
2001 Wendy Cooper Gallery, Madison, WI
1997 “Recent Acquisitions,” Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
1995 “Semblances,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1992 Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
1989 “The Unique Touch: Monotypes,” Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI 1988 Zolla Lieberman Gallery, Chicago, IL
“Wisconsin Individuals,” Organized by Milwaukee Art Museum, 333 Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL
Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
1986 Spaces Gallery, Cleveland, OH
“Notes from the Underground,” Frumkin Gallery, New York, NY
“Made in America: The Great Lakes States,” Alternative Museum, NY, NY
1985 Artemesia, Chicago, IL
“The Neo-Figure: An International Survey,” Yares Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ “Figure, Form, Content,” Frumkin/Struve Gallery, Chicago, IL

SELECTED ARTICLES/CATALOGS

Auer, James. “Mark Mulhern,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 30, 2002, Section E Bonesteel, Michael. “Mark Mulhern at Frumkin/Struve.” Art in America 71, No. 10, November 1983, pp. 231-33
Gimelson, Deborah. “New York’s Surprising Market for Contemporary Monotypes”, Architectural Digest, November 1991, pp. 90-94.
Milwaukee Art Museum. The Delicate Prey-Monotypes by Mark Mulhern, 1994. Text by Sue Taylor.
Milwaukee Art Museum. New Figuration in America, 1982. Text by Russell Bowman & Peter Schjeldahl.
Milwaukee Art Museum. The Unique Touch, Monotypes, 1988. Text by Janet Treacy. Milwaukee Art Museum. 100 Years of Wisconsin Art, 1988. Text by Dean Sobel and Janet Treacy.
Tory Folliard Gallery. Mostly People, 2018. Text by Mark Mulhern and T.L. Solien


SELECTED COLLECTIONS

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Bank of Kaukauna, Kaukauna, WI
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison Newberry Library, Chicago, IL
Marshall Erdman & Associates, Madison, WI McDonald’s Corporation, Oakbrook, IL
Northwestern Mutual Insurance, Milwaukee, WI
Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation, Milwaukee, WI Quarles & Brady, LLP, Milwaukee, WI
Quad Graphics, Milwaukee, WI
UW Hospital & Clinics, Madison, WI

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