Critics’ Picks

View of “The Feeling of Things,” 2018.

View of “The Feeling of Things,” 2018.


Matt Mullican

Pirelli HangarBicocca
Via Chiese 2
April 12–September 16, 2018

The American artist Matt Mullican’s current retrospective, “The Feeling of Things,” is a selection of not only artworks but also of exhibitions. In this recapitulation of a nearly half-century-long career—an undertaking that well-utilizes the colossal dimensions of this Milan institution—viewers will discover the set of four monumental banners that constituted the backbone of Mullican’s 1990 solo show at Le Magasin as well as the installation of bedsheets onto which Mullican glued hundreds of drawings by his alter ego, “That Person”—exhibited in 2005’s “Learning from That Person’s Work” at the Ludwig Museum. There’s also a section of the 1990 “MIT Project” from the List Visual Arts Center, a key exhibition that inspired the overall form of this retrospective: an enormous enclosure divided into five areas that correspond, for Mullican, to the essential aspects of reality, from “Elements” (the world seen as pure material) to “Subject” (the realm of beliefs). Within these areas, Mullican has arranged hundreds of works created from 1970 to the present, some of which comprise hundreds of parts (drawings, photographs, frottages, etc.). There is a total of approximately six thousand objects on view.

This sort of overwhelming quantity in and of itself takes on meaning. While very simplified, the map of reality that Mullican has conceived—or more accurately, the map of cultural and psychological construction that we call reality, which in the end is the theme of all his work—is vast enough that the viewer becomes lost and shipwrecked within it, similar to what happens when one comes up against the illimitable complexity of the “real world.” Adrift in the labyrinth of “The Feeling of Things,” viewers cannot help but think of the map of an empire described by Jorge Luis Borges in one of his well-known stories: a map so large and detailed it coincided, in the end, with the empire itself.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.