San Francisco

Lee Mullican

Rose Rabow Gallery

The clues to Lee Mullican’s latest paint­ings lie in his graphic work. Both his etchings and drawings contain a rich, variegated repertory of shapes that move playfully in and out of landscape space. This space is illusory and not two-dimensional, although the shapes that inhabit the space are a mixture of two and three dimensions.

This ambiguous use of space is re­peated in the paintings with a few im­portant differences occurring. A screen of one-inch vertical knife strokes, like hundreds of colored paper matches, covers nine-tenths of the canvas. Be­hind this screen, the shapes lie in repose without those deep probes into space found in the drawings. Unlike the paint­ings, the body of graphic work has whole series of interlocked, sensuous images which take on a vivacious, game-like appearance. These same shapes lose their forceful vitality when enlarged in the paintings and become mere space fillers. A tight, aloof, disengaged and formal quality replaces a free informal one. What begins as a romantic, i.e., surrealist, impulse is thus transformed or classicized through self-conscious tightening and re-working to the detri­ment of the finished paintings.

James Monte