Lee Mullican: The Marble Drawings 1966-1970

Marc Selwyn Gallery

November 17, 2018 – February 2, 2019

Lee Mullican  High Way , 1969 Pastel and acrylic on board 30 x 20 inches

Lee Mullican
High Way, 1969
Pastel and acrylic on board
30 x 20 inches


Composed of marble-sized spheres of pigment, these drawings explore patterns discerned from both minute cellular images and the intergalactic cosmos. In marble drawings, Mullican also ventures beyond man’s scientific output of maps and microscopes to explore the spiritual realm and our universal connection with ancient ancestral truths. A reference to petroglyphs, for example, is apparent in Mullican’s Codigo de Senales, 1969, where enigmatic shapes are set against a velvety black background. Dual interpretations work in tandem as each marble glistens with its own sense of realism before falling into abstraction.

The sphere in Mullican’s marble drawings can also be seen as an extension of his signature technique of using repetitive units to form staggering Op Art-esque patterns of condensed color. Works like High Way, 1969 embody the combination of primitive influences, intuitive mark- making and jewel-like hues that characterize the artist’s work. Cerulean blue and electric lime green dance among garnet and amethyst tones in patterns that evoke an elaborate South American textile.

Lee Mullican, along with Wolfgang Paalen and Gordon Onslow Ford, was known as a member of “the Dynaton.” This group of artists, named after the Greek word for “the possible,” acted as a bridge between the European Surrealist and American Abstract Expressionist schools. Disbanding shortly after its seminal exhibition in 1951 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Dynaton explored the subconscious mind, mysticism, automatism, and the influences of ancient cultures. Mullican remained true to these ideas but went on to develop his own highly personal imagery in the marble drawings and other works.

Lee Mullican was born in 1919 in Chickasha, Oklahoma and died in Los Angeles in 1998. He began drawing and painting as a child and continued in college becoming a topological draftsman in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mullican’s works are included in the permanent collections of numerous important institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, among others.

A catalogue of the exhibition with an essay by Marie Heilich will be published concurrently with the exhibition and is available at the gallery.